On September 20, 2022, April Ehrlich, an award-winning Oregon journalist, sued the City of Medford and Jackson County for violating her First and Fourth Amendment rights.
On September 22, 2020, Medford city police and a Jackson County probation officer arrested Ms. Ehrlich while she was reporting for Jefferson Public Radio, an NPR affiliate, on the police sweep of an encampment in Hawthorne Park in Medford, Oregon. The Hawthorne Park encampment included people displaced in the Almeda wildfire. Ms. Ehrlich was in Hawthorne Park, reporting on the sweep, when law enforcement officers told her she was trespassing, handcuffed her, and took her to jail.
Still From Video Police body camera footage showing 2020 arrest of Oregon radio reporter April Ehrlich in Medford park
The City of Medford charged Ms. Ehrlich with resisting arrest and criminal trespass, and pursued prosecution of both charges. Ms. Ehrlich’s criminal defense lawyers, Stephen and Jacob Houze, challenged the trespass charge on constitutional grounds. Their motion was supported by an amicus brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on behalf of a coalition of fifty-two news media and other organizations, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Oregonian, National Public Radio, and the ACLU of Oregon. The Medford Municipal Court dismissed the trespass charge on August 26, 2022, and the City of Medford then dismissed the remaining resisting arrest charge.
Kafoury and McDougal, along with attorneys Stephen and Jacob Houze, are suing the City of Medford and Jackson County in Oregon federal court on April Ehrlich’s behalf, for violating Ms. Ehrlich’s rights to free speech and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as for false arrest and battery.
Greg Kafoury sits with April Ehrlich as they are interviewed in the offices of Kafoury & McDougal.
April Ehrlich, now working as a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, brings this lawsuit in part to challenge the growing practice of barring journalists from covering police activities and arresting reporters covering protests and police actions. “Medford police shouldn’t have arrested me for doing my job as a journalist,” said Ms. Ehrlich, “and the city of Medford shouldn’t have doubled down on that wrong by pursuing criminal charges for the last two years. I want to ensure no journalist in Oregon or elsewhere has to experience such a stressful and traumatizing experience as the one I had to endure.”
For more information, including the civil complaint and video of the arrest: