Doe v. Smith

Raj PagariyaCase Summary

Whether recording a sexual encounter between two partners with one-party consent can be considered "interception" under Section 2510(4)?

Jane Doe v. Jason Smith
429 F.3d 706
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Case Number 05-1903
Before Circuit Judge Easterbrook, Circuit Judge Evans, and Circuit Judge Williams
Decided on November 21, 2005

Relevancy of the Case: Whether recording a sexual encounter between two partners with one-party consent can be considered “interception” under Section 2510(4)?

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Federal Wiretapping Statute, 18 USC § 2510

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The plaintiff engaged in consensual sexual relations with Jason Smith. She was 16 at the time of the incident, and Smith was a year older.
  • Smith had set up a hidden video camera and recorded the two of them. After the couple stopped dating, he circulated the video in their high school.
  • The District Court dismissed her complaint on the ground that it was defective. The plaintiff did not allege that recording was an interception within the meaning of Section 2510(4).

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The plaintiff’s counsel contended that the defendant distributed the copies of the video by email. This caused an invasion of her privacy.
  • The defendant’s counsel argues that if the plaintiff cannot show a link to interstate commerce or if she relies on a subsection under which such a link is not necessary, this would mean that the statute is unconstitutional.

Opinion of the Bench

  • Complaints initiate the litigation but need not cover everything necessary for the plaintiff to win. Factual details and legal arguments can come later on.
  • The plaintiff can show that the defendant captured a wire, oral, or electronic communication. The video recording had a soundtrack, which was recorded when she expected privacy. A silent film will be an exception to this. However, most video records capture sound as well.
  • The plaintiff can also demonstrate interstate link if the defendant has used email service for distributing the copies of the video.
  • There is no need to reach constitutional questions before the court knows what the plaintiff will be able to demonstrate. If the defendant seeks to question the statute’s constitutionality, he should inform the District Court and arrange for a notice to the Attorney General.
  • The plaintiff can also show that the defendant made the recording to commit a criminal or tortious act. She presented various claims under state law; however, the District Court relinquished supplemental jurisdiction without deciding whether these theories were tenable.
  • If the District Court decides that anonymous litigation is inappropriate in this case, the court should allow the plaintiff to dismiss the suit instead of revealing her name.

Final Decision

  • The court reversed the District Court’s judgement and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.