[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Wednesday vetoed [veto message, PDF] a bill that would have banned individuals from flying drones lower than 350 feet over private property without permission from a landowner. The stated purpose of the bill was to protect privacy rights of landowners from unforeseen surveillance from drones, but in his veto message, Brown said, “[t]his bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action.” The California Assembly had approved [JURIST report] the bill [SB 142] last month.
The use of drones [JURIST backgrounder] is controversial in both the international arena and in domestic circles. Last March the UN General Assembly passed a resolution [JURIST report] urging states to comply with international law in the use of armed drone strikes. UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson called for transparency and accountability [JURIST report] in the use of drones in counterterrorism operations in his report in October 2013. A joint Human Rights Watch and International Human Rights Clinic report [text, PDF] also raised possible threats to human rights, such as the right to life, in law enforcement situations. The US has been involved in numerous lawsuits surrounding drone use. In June the families of two Yemeni men killed by US drone strikes filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the government, claiming they were wrongfully killed. In December 2010 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] challenging the Obama administration’s ability to conduct targeted killings [JURIST backgrounder], a challenge spurred because one subject of a targeted killing, al-Awlaki-Khan [JURIST news archive], was a dual US-Yemeni citizen.