Judge Says Former Congressman Can Get Names of Anonymous Posters from LoHud.com

LoHud.com, an online news site operated by The Journal News that focuses on New York's Lower Hudson Valley, reported on Friday that a Westchester County judge has ruled that it must turn over the names of three pseudonymous posters to former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger. According to the report, Ottinger and his wife subpoenaed The Journal News asking for identifying information for posters to the site's Mamaroneck community forum going by the psuedonyms "SAVE10543," "hadenough," and "aoxomoxoa." The posters allegedly made statements accusing the Ottingers of unsavory conduct in the course of a neighborhood dispute over their construction of a house in the Village of Mamaroneck, NY. 

The Journal News moved to quash the subpoena,  but the court ruled that the newspaper had to turn over the requested information.  Although the details are still sketchy, the court appears to have applied the standard for protecting the First Amendment right to anonymous speech set forth in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001). We are trying to get the underlying court documents, and we'll update this post and our database entry, Ottinger v. The Journal News, when we have more information. 

Incidentally, this is the second subpoena issued to the Journal News over comments on LoHud this year. The Rockland County District Attorney's Office served a grand jury subpoena on the newspaper in April, demanding that it produce subscriber information for another pseudonymous user. The Journal News also moved to quash the subpoena in that case, but the court declined to adopt the Dendrite standard in the grand jury context and found that the District Attorney had made a heightened showing of need through in camera testimony. See our database entry, New York v. The Journal News, for details and copies of court documents.

Update:

7/9/08 - The underlying documents and a more complete synopsis of the court proceedings are available in our database entry, Ottinger v. The Journal News.

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