Anonymity

Florida v. Brayshaw

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Date: 

05/01/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert A. Brayshaw

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Legal Counsel: 

James Green

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Florida state authorities charged Robert Brayshaw with a misdemeanor for violating Fla. Stat. § 843.17 after he anonymously posted the name, address, and telephone number of a Tallahassee Police Department officer on RateMyCop.com.  Section 843.17 prohibits publication of a law enforcement officer's residential address or telephone number with the intent to intimidate, hinder, or interrupt any law enforcement officer in the legal performance of his or her duties.  The Tallahassee police obtained Brayshaw's identity after subpoenaing records from RateMyCop.com and Brayshaw's ISP, according to Wired.

Prosecutors voluntarily dropped the charges on December 9 and then refiled 10 days later, according to an article on RateMyCop.com. The state court judge ultimately dismissed the charges with prejudice for failure to comply with Florida's speedy trial requirements. Brayshaw then filed a complaint in federal court in Florida, seeking a declaration that Section 843.17 violates the First Amendment. According to Brayshaw's complaint, the police officer's name and address are publicly available on the Leon County Clerk of Court's website.  On April 30, 2010, Judge Smoak issued a decision striking down Section 843.17 as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [10/23/2009]

EK - updating [11/13/2009]; also look at related entry State of Florida v. Ratemycop.com

Subject Area: 

Hipcheck16 Is No Turk 182 - But Anonymous Political Speech Is Sacred

This one is a little disturbing.

Political Race Gets Nasty

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

New York v. Burgoyne

Date: 

01/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Cindy Burgoyne

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Orange County

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Convicted
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Cindy Burgoyne pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after posting confidential information about grand jury proceedings on discussion forum on the Times Herald-Record's website, using the pseudonym "Nancy Drew." Burgoyne had served on the grand jury investigating the death of a suspect in police custody. Her July 2008 posting on the newspaper's website came months after her service ended, according to the Times Herald-Record.

The Orange County District Attorney's office subpoenaed the Times Herald-Record to obtain information about Burgoyne's identity. After pleading guilty, she paid a small fine.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Butler University v. Zimmerman

Date: 

01/08/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jess Zimmerman

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Marion Superior Court, State of Indiana

Case Number: 

49D020901PL001164

Legal Counsel: 

Dan Altman

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Subpoena Enforced
Withdrawn

Description: 

In January 2009, Butler University filed a "John Doe" defamation lawsuit against the pseudonymous author of the TrueBU blog, who signed his posts "Soodo Nym." The author later was identified as Butler University student Jess Zimmerman.

The complaint alleged that Soodo Nym defamed the University and two of its administrators in at least five blog posts from October to December 2008. The posts criticized school officals in connection with the decision to dismiss the chair of the school's music department (who happens to be Zimmerman's stepmother). Specifically, the complaint cited the following statements, among others, as allegedly defamatory:

  • "Peter Alexander, Dean of the JCFA, is power-hungry and afraid of his own shadow.  He drives away talented administrators. He frustrates students within the departments.  He hurts the ability of the school to recruit talented students and faculty members.  He announces to the campus that the Butler Way, the ideals for which the school and everyone at it stands, means nothing." ¶ 17.
  • "Dean Alexander has misused his authority, is paranoid, and is unequivocally a poor leader of an otherwise promising college with Butler University.  Need more be said?  He says one thing and does another. . . .  [Dean Alexander] cannot deal with disagreements or conflict and instead uses the brute force of his authority as Dean to dictate what happens within the JCFA." ¶ 23.
  • "Dr. Comstock 'doesn't seem to care much for student opinion,' is 'unwilling to work with students unless she can see how the relationship will directly benefit her,' and seems to 'have some illusions of grandeur and a love for the power of her position.'" ¶ 11.

According to an October 13 statement from Butler President Bobby Fong, the school requested permission from the court in February and April to issue subpoenas seeking the blogger's identity.  In both cases, the court granted the request and issued the subpoenas.  (It does not appear from the record whether Zimmerman had notice of the subpoena requests or intervened to object.) According to Fong's statement, information obtained through the subpoena process led to Zimmerman. (Zimmerman says that the University told him it had proof he was Soodo Nym back in January.) In October, Zimmerman came forward publicly as the author of the blog, which had ceased operations on January 1 in response to the university's threat of a lawsuit.

On October 27, President Fong issued another statement, indicating that Butler had dropped the lawsuit and would "deal with Jess Zimmerman through the internal disciplinary process."

CMLP Notes: 

Stylianou Oct/09

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Swartz v. Does: Tennessee Court Says Couple Entitled to Unmask Anonymous Blogger

A Tennessee state court ruled earlier this month that plaintiffs Donald and Terry Keller Swartz are entitled to discover the identity of the anonymous blogger behind the Stop Swartz blog who published critical statements about them and encouraged readers to post information on their whereabouts and activities.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Aquino v. Electriciti

Date: 

02/18/1997

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Electriciti Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco

Case Number: 

984751

Legal Counsel: 

Noel Johnson and Roger R. Myers- Steinhart & Falconer

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Michael A. Aquino and Lilith Aquino, leaders of the "Temple of Set," sued Electriciti, Inc., an internet service provider, over statements made by one of its subscribers.  According to their complaint, an Electriciti subscriber going by the pseudonym "Curio" posted defamatory comments to Usenet groups falsely claiming that they participated in Satanic Ritual Abuse of children, molested children, and perpetrated fraud on the United States Government. Cmplt. ¶ 17. Also according to the complaint, the Aquinos contacted Electriciti about Curio's postings, but the company did nothing to stop them.

The Aquinos claimed that Electriciti negligently failed to "ensure that its services [were] not used to further hate campaigns and to assist a mentally unstable individual to continue his or her vendetta against other persons using the internet."  They also claimed that Electriciti  actively assisted Curio in making the objectionable postings, and that Curio was "an agent and/or employee of [Electriciti] such that [his/her] actions are attributable to [Electriciti]."

Electriciti moved to dismiss the complaint, and the court held that the case was preempted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

CMLP Notes: 

Stylianou, oct/09

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

Beck v. Eiland-Hall

Date: 

09/04/2009

Threat Type: 

Other

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Isaac Eiland-Hall

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Administrative

Court Name: 

World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center

Legal Counsel: 

Marc J. Randazza

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In September 2009, conservative talk show host and self-described "rodeo clown" Glenn Beck filed an administrative complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) against the privacy service for glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com.  (The UDRP is a policy that website operators automatically agree to when they register a domain name; the policy enables trademark owners to initiate an administrative proceeding challenging the registration of a domain name in "bad faith.")  In response to the compaint, the privacy service revealed the identity of the website operator, whose name is Isaac Eiland-Hall.

The origin of the website is an Internet meme that came into being on Fark.com. The premise of the rape and murder charge comes from a Gilbert Gottfried routine performed during a Comedy Central roast of comedian Bob Saget. During Gottfried's act, he keeps repeating that there are rumors that Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990 and pretends to admonish the audience to stop spreading the until-now-non-existent rumor.  

Picking up on a perceived similarity between Beck's rhetorical style and the Gottfried routine, a Fark user posted this comment in late August: "Why haven't we had an official response to the rumor that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990?"  The joke caught on immediately, and, according to Mediaite, the Farkers took the meme and plastered it all over the web

The next day, Eiland-Hall registered the domain name and posted satirical commentary and links on the site. Picking up on Beck's comments in his famous interview with Congressman Keith Ellison, where he asked the Congressman — a Muslim — to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies," the website says:

This site exists to try and help examine the vicious rumour that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990. We don't claim to know the truth -- only that the rumour floating around saying that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990 should be discussed. So we're going to do our part to try and help get to the bottom of this.

Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations? We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 - in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?

Under the caption "A Plea for Help" and title "Don't Leave Glenn Beck Alone!!!!!," an embedded video clip features a mock-crying woman saying, among other things, "everytime people stop teasing him [Glenn Beck], and ridiculing him, and making fun of him, and laughing and pointing and staring at him, a baby ghost gets turned into a human being. Do you want that to happen?" 

The site contains a disclaimer at the top of the page: "Notice: This website is 100% parody" with a link to a full disclaimer at the bottom of the page:

Notice: This site is parody/satire. We assume Glenn Beck did not rape and murder a young girl in 1990, although we haven't yet seen proof that he didn't. But we think Glenn Beck definitely uses tactics like this to spread lies and misinformation.

Read the last sentence again. That's the point. Read it a third time and ignore the name of the site itself, because anyone who believes that we're trying to actually get people to believe Glenn Beck raped and/or murdered is *whoosh* missing the entire point. So don't be dumb like a lot of people are. I greatly expanded this text because so many people *read* it, and *still* didn't understand.

Beck claims in his UDRP complaint that the domain name is confusingly similar to his trademark "Glenn Beck" and that Eiland-Hall has no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name and registered it in bad faith. 

On September 28, 2009, Eiland-Hall filed a response brief arguing that the domain name is not confusingly similar to "Glenn Beck" (except perhaps to a "moron in a hurry"), that Eiland Hall has legitimate rights in the domain name because he uses it to criticize Beck and to participate in an Internet meme, and that Beck has failed to establish that he has trademark rights in his name. 

Update:

10/13/2009 - Beck filed a supplemental brief in response to Eiland-Hall's brief.

10/20/2009 - Eiland-Hall filed a surreply brief

10/29/09 - The WIPO panel denied Beck's UDRP complaint.

11/6/09 - Eiland-Hall voluntarily transferred the domain name to Beck.

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine v. Wikimedia

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/19/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.; John or Jane Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York

Case Number: 

111917-2009

Publication Medium: 

Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) and its co-founders Robert M. Goldman and Ronald M. Klatz sued Wikimedia Foundation and ten anonymous posters for defamation in New York state court over comments appearing on A4M's Wikipedia page. In their complaint, plaintiffs allege that anonymous posters published statements disparaging their scientific qualifications and medical credentials and implying that they were implicated in illegal trafficking of human growth hormones and anabolic steriods. The complaint purports to include Wikimedia "solely as a nominal Defendant," and A4M seeks to identify the anonymous posters through discovery.

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Mi Casa Es Su Casa — But I Set the Rules

Paul Klocko got a surprise in the mail in April: a letter on official stationary from Weston, Wisconsin administrator Dean Zuleger, demanding that Klocko stop posting comments on the web criticizing him.  The letter also asked that Klocko "come out from behind the cloak" and meet Zuleger in person.

Subject Area: 

Sarah Palin v. "Gryphen"

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

08/01/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Gryphen

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Description: 

On August 1, 2009, Sarah Palin's lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to Alaskan blogger "Gryphen" over a post published earlier that day on Gryphen's blog ImmoralMinority.  

The cease and deist letter takes issue with a number of statements made in the post "Exclusive! Sarah and Todd Palin are Splitsville!," including the statements that Palin "has purchased land in Montana" and that "Todd Palin pulled a gun on Levi [Johnston] in a heated exchange" in 2008.

The cease and desist letter demanded a retraction by 3:00 pm AST on August 1, 2009.  The letter further requested information on how Gryphen would like to be served with a complaint and summons should s/he decline to retract the post.  The next day, Gryphen responded to the letter with a post asserting that
s/he believed the factual information received from her sources to be
correct. As of September 17, 2009, there is no information that a legal action has been initiated.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Admission Consultants, Inc. v. Google

Date: 

11/13/2007

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County

Case Number: 

115190/07

Legal Counsel: 

Tonia Ouellette Klausner - Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Admission Consultants, Inc. filed a motion for pre-action discovery in New York court, asking Google for identifying information relating to two email addresses tied to anonymous posts to a forum about business schools on BusinessWeek.com. The objected-to comments criticized the company in various regards.  In one, the commenter stated that he was shocked at Admission Consultants' lack of response to its unsatisfied customers.  In another, the commenter stated that he agreed with the statements on the message thread that Admission Consultants was not a legitimate company.  In a third, the commenter said that "[t]hese guys sound like complete crooks." 

In a December 2008 decision, the court denied Admission Consultants' request for discovery, finding that the comments could not support a defamation claim because they were statements of opinion, not fact.  Therefore, Admission Consultants could not show that it had " a meritorious cause of action and that the information being sought is material and necessary to the actionable wrong," as required for pre-action discovery in New York.  The court also ruled that a message on a forum that "bumped" the messages above it did not constitute a "republication of the defamation for every message posted previously."

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

Chang v. Greenwald

Date: 

07/17/2009

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Greenwald; Google Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, Sacramento County

Case Number: 

No. 34-2009-00033484

Legal Counsel: 

Donald B. Mooney - Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On September 9, 2009, Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang ruled (scroll to Item 7) on blogger David Greenwald's motion to quash a subpoena seeking the identity of commenters to his blog, the People's Vanguard of Davis. Judge Chang decided that former UC Davis police officer Calvin Chang (no relation to the judge) cannot obtain directly any identifying information for the commenters in question, but he can employ a third-party expert to determine whether the comments were posted by specific UC Davis personnel whose names Chang will provide in advance.

This summer, Mr. Chang's attorney served the subpoena on Google, Greenwald's former blog host, as part of Chang's employment discrimination and breach of contract action against the UC Davis.  Greenwald published blog entries about Chang's lawsuit back in February 2009, a few days after the suit was filed, and several readers posted negative comments about Chang and his case. The subpoena seeks identifying information for seven anonymous and pseudonymous comments.  Chang maintains that the individuals who left these comments are "managing agents" of the university, and that the comments themselves constitute evidence of breach of a previous settlement agreement by the university. Google informed Greenwald of the subpoena, and he challenged it, arguing that the First Amendment protects the rights of his commenters to speak anonymously and that the information is not relevant to Chang's suit against the university.

The court largely agreed with Greenwald's arguments, finding that Chang "has not made the requisite prima facie showing of a valid libel claim against [the commenters] in order to justify the requested disclosure of their personal information," apparently in a subtle nod to Krinsky v. Doe 6, 72 Cal. Rptr. 3d 231 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008), a California appellate decision Greenwald relied on heavily. The court went on to explain that Chang's opposition papers "nowhere showed or attempted to show that the comments posted to the blog were 'assertions of fact which are provably false' and not non-actionable opinions, as required by Paterno v. Superior Court (Ampersand Publishing) (2008) 163 Cal. App.4th 1342, 1349-1350."  The court therefore concluded that Chang failed to justify the disclosure of the posters' identity in order to proceed with libel claims against them.

But, the court recognized that "if the comments posted on the blog were authored by 'managing agents' of the university, they would constitute evidence relevant to existing claims against the university." The court found that Chang "identified specific reasons" to believe that the postings were made by university personnel because of "the use of unique terms" and "reference to information not generally known." Still, the court worried about stripping unrelated Internet speakers of their anonymity without justification and therefore imposed the following conditions on Chang's discovery of the identity of the posters to the blog:

  • At his own expense, Chang will retain an independent third party to perform an IP address trace of the sources of the comments posted to the blog;
  • Chang will provide the third party with the names of the specific university personnel believed to have posted the comments;
  • The third party will be the "exclusive recipient" of records and information produced by Google or Greenwald in response to the subpoena or similar subpoenas seeking the identify of the commenters;
  • If the third party determines that any of the comments were posted by the specific university personnel identified in advance by Chang, then he/she will release the associated records and information to the parties; and
  • If the third party determines that any of the postings were not authored by someone on Chang's list, then he/she will be prohibited from releasing any records or information relating to the posting(s) or individual(s).

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Citing Anti-SLAPP Law, New York Court Dismisses Libel Case Against Unmasked Commenter

Long before Liskula Cohen's case brought online anonymity into the m

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Ottinger v. Tiekert

Date: 

09/04/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stuart Tiekert

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Westchester County

Case Number: 

016429/2008

Legal Counsel: 

Debra S. Cohen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger, filed a John Doe lawsuit in New York state court over anonymous comments posted on a forum on LoHud.com.  In a special proceeding for pre-action discovery, the court ordered The Journal News, publisher of LoHud.com, to turn over the commenter's identifying information.  The Ottingers then amended the complaint to name Stuart Tiekert as a defendant.

According to court documents, Tiekert's comments related to a renovation project the Ottingers were carrying out on their home in Mamaroneck, New York, for which they sought various building permits. Some of the Ottingers' neighbors and local activists attended meetings held in connection with approvals and permits that the Ottingers needed, and one neighbor — Susan McCrory — stated her belief at a televised public meeting that the deed for the Ottinger property was "invalid" and "fraudulent."  The next day, Tiekert posted comments on LoHud suggesting that the Ottingers' deed was fraudulent, and that the Ottingers had used political pressure and bribery to obtain the requisite permits for the project.  The Ottingers sued, maintaining that these statements were false and defamatory. 

Tiekert filed a motion for summary judgment and attorneys' fees under New York's anti-SLAPP statutes, N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 70-a, 76-a and N.Y. C.P.L.R. §§ 3211(g), 3212(h). He also filed a counterclaim alleging that he was entitled to damages based on the Ottingers' filing of a SLAPP.

In August 2009, the court granted Tiekert's motion for summary judgment, finding that the action "involves public petition and participation brought by a public applicant, and which action is materially related to the defendant's efforts to comment on, challenge, or oppose said application," thus triggering the New York anti-SLAPP law.  The court further held that the Ottingers "failed to demonstrate that their action has a substantial basis in fact or law, or is supported by a substantial argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of any existing law" and therefore dismissed the action. 

The court's precise reasoning on the latter point is not clear, but it may relate to the Ottingers' inability to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Tiekert made the statements in question with knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, their falsity, particularly in light of McCrory's public statements the previous day.

The court determined, however, that Tiekert was not entitled to compensatory or punitive damages because it found that the lawsuit was not "brought to harass, intimidate, punish, or otherwise maliciously inhibit the free exercise of speech."  The court also declined to award Tiekert attorneys' fees and costs.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Kinay v. TCI Journal

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/19/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

1-09-CV-150301

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

A resort developer filed a John Doe lawsuit in California state court against the anonymous operators of TCI Journal, an online newspaper that reports on government corruption in the Turks & Caicos Islands. According to press acounts, Dr. Cem Kinay alleges that TCI Journal defamed him by posting articles linking him to government corruption in the former British colony.

After filing the lawsuit, Kinay subpoenaed Google to turn over identifying information and IP address log-in history for the Gmail account tcijournal@gmail.com.  Google notified its subscriber that it would comply with the subpoena unless provided with a copy of a motion to quash or other formal objection filed in court by September 6, 2009. A Google spokesperson issued the following statement to a reporter with ReadWriteWeb:

"When Google receives legal process, such as court orders and subpoenas, where possible we promptly provide notice to users to allow them to object to those requests for information. Users may raise any and all objections they feel are relevant, including First Amendment arguments. In addition, we are still evaluating all our legal options regarding this particular request."

As of September 9, no formal objection to the subpoena had been filed.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Gmail_may_hand_over_IP_addresses_of_journalists

 

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_may_hand_over_muckraking_jou...

 

Google may turn over login information about a political blogging site because of a subpoena.  

Jurisdiction: 

Department of Homeland Security v Does

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Date: 

07/12/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

According to the Wayne County Star, the Department of Home­land Security is investigating racially insensitive comments posted to an article on the Wayne County Star’s website about a July 12 incident in which Border Patrol officials questioned the legal status of passengers on a boat near Sodus Point, New York. According to the Star, the IP addresses associated with the comments were linked to Border Patrol/Homeland Security computers. According to the New York Times, Department rules prohibit employees from using government computers to disseminate material that could offend fellow employees or the public.

The offending posts have since been removed from the site.

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

United States v. Does

Date: 

06/02/2009

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Does 1-4

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Nevada

Case Number: 

2:09-cv-1083

Legal Counsel: 

Allen Lichtenstein, Judy C. Cox, Lee B. Rowland, Margaret A. McLetchie - ACLU of Nevada (for Defendants Does 1-3); Margaret A. McLetchie - ACLU of Nevada (for Defendant Doe 4)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

After anonymous users posted allegedly threatening comments to a Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) article about an ongoing federal criminal trial (the "Kahre case"), the US Attorney in that case issued a grand jury subpoena seeking information about all public commenters on that thread.  On June 16, 2009, the subpoena was narrowed, seeking personal information related only to two comments from the LVRJ article.

The two comments at issue are as follows:

  • "I bid 10 Quatloos that Christoper Maietta [one of the prosecutors in the Kahre case] does not celebrate his next birthday."
  • "The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury who will convict him.  They should also be hung along with the feds."

(Amended Mot. to Quash 3).

On June 16, the ACLU of Nevada filed a motion to intervene on behalf of three John Does, along with motions to quash and for a protective order.  On June 22, amended versions of all three motions were filed, and a fourth John Doe was added.  The ACLU maintains that the comments are protected speech under the First Amendment because they are "in no way revealing of any criminal activity."  (Amended Mot. to Quash 3-4.)

On June 18, between the ACLU's initial and amended motions to intervene and quash, the LVRJ complied with the narrowed subpoena and turned over identifying information to the US Attorney's office.  The US Attorney filed a motion to dismiss on June 26, stating that the ACLU's motion to quash was moot.

In its July 13 response to the US Attorney's motion to dismiss, the ACLU claims that the issue is not moot, as the court may still provide the Does with relief despite the LVRJ's compliance with the subpoena.  Specifically, they suggest the court might prevent the use of any information gleaned from the subpoena, order all personal information that resulted from the subpoena be destroyed, and/or issue a protective order to "prevent future abuses of the grand jury subpoena to obtain information about critics of the government's position in the Kahre case."  (Response to Mot. to Dismiss 2.)

CMLP Notes: 

AVM- Though LVRJ is not being charged, I assume they may act as third party intervenors in these requests

6/24/09 Update AVM added article on ACLU's proposed motion to quash subpoena and remove judge

8/10/2009 - LB editing 

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Pages