Anonymity

Garrett v. Jaquith

Date: 

01/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Waldo Jaquith

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for the County of Buckingham, Virginia

Case Number: 

CL08000197-00

Legal Counsel: 

Waldo Jacquith (Pro Se, Initially); Paul Levy - Public Citizen; Josh Wheeler - Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression; Rebecca Glenberg - Virginia ACLU

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In January 2009, Thomas Garrett, a Virginia chicken farmer, publicist, and self-proclaimed "Hollywood insider," subpoenaed blogger Waldo Jaquith, who publishes cvillenews.com, a community news blog about Charlottesville, Virginia.  Garrett's lawyer served the subpoena in connection with his defamation lawsuit against The Hook, a weekly newspaper in Charlottesville that also publishes content on its website.  For details on the lawsuit, see our related database entry, Garrett v. The Hook.

Jaquith blogged about the Garrett-Hook lawsuit on December 23, 2008.  His post, entitled "The Hook Sued For Defamation," gave background on the lawsuit, quoted Hook editor Hawes Spencer's comments on it, and explained the elements of a defamation claim.  He also made some critical comments about Garrett: 

I can sympathize with The Hook in their continued coverage of him. In writing this blog entry this afternoon, it’s impossible to ignore the really sketchy aspects about this guy. Seriously, look at this magazine that he claims to have been on the cover of. This was obviously patched together in Microsoft Paint. It just screams “bad photoshop job.” (The fact that the magazine doesn’t seem to exist doesn’t help any.) Then there’s his PR firm’s website, hosted on Angelfire. Remember them? The free website hosting service from the mid-90s? Used primary to host webpages for middle school girls professing their love for boy bands? That’s where his company’s website is, at the address http://www.angelfire.com/film/tgj/. Though the site claims to be at garretticonspr.com, that domain is unregistered. In short, Garrett looks like a train wreck in slow motion, and I get that The Hook is just watching and waiting for his big finish.

As a result of this post, Garrett's attorney served Jaquith with a subpoena as part of discovery in his lawsuit against The Hook.  Among other things, the subpoena requests the names and/or IP addresses for everyone who posted a comment to Jaquith's December 23 post.  (As of January 29, there were 81 comments to the post.)  It also seeks IP addresses for every viewer of the post and all logs generated in connection with it. Beyond that, it asks Jaquith for every email or written communication he has sent or received relating to the post or Thomas Garrett, as well as any post, comment, or other writing Jacquith has made on other sites.

The return date on the subpoena is February 2, 2009.  Jaquith has indicated that hiring a lawyer to quash the subpoena is beyond his budget, but he plans to fight the subpoena, acting as his own attorney.

Update:

01/31/2009 - Waldo Jaquith filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

02/13/2009 - Garrett filed a motion to compel compliance with the subpoena.

03/05/2009 - Waldo Jacquith filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion to compel.

5/22/09 - Waldo Jacquith reported that Garrett settled his lawsuit with The Hook, obviating the need to comply with the subpoena.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Judge Orders Google to Notify "Skanks in NYC" Blogger of Discovery Request

Wendy Davis of MediaPost reports that the blogger behind the Skanks in NYC blog will keep his/her identity secret for another four weeks.  In a hearing yesterday in New York Supreme Court, Judge Joan Madden refused to rule on model Li

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Anonymous Gripe Site Wins Legal Battle With Ohio Homebuilder Powermark Homes

Last month, an anonymous website dedicated to criticizing Ohio homebuilder Powermark Homes succeeded in maintaining its anonymity in the face of a lawsuit brought by the company and two of its principals, Mark and Lisa Powers, who had sued the anonymous operator of Powermark Homes Alert.  At the time of the suit, the homepage for the site included a picture of Mark and Lisa and the statements "The Truth Exposed" and "Do you really want to do business with this Ohio Home Builder?"

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Nam Tai v. Yahoo! Inc.

Date: 

02/01/2001

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yahoo! Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Nam Tai Electronics, Inc., a Hong Kong-based electronics company, subpoenaed Yahoo! Inc. in connection with a lawsuit against 51 "John Doe" defendants alleging libel, trade libel, and violations of California's unfair business practices statute.  The lawsuit revolved around negative comments about Nam Tai posted to a Yahoo! message board pertaining to Nam Tai. After filing the complaint, Nam Tai obtained a subpoena in California directing Yahoo! to disclose its subscriber data (IP address) for "scovey2," one of the anonymous forum posters.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Jurisdiction: 

Nam Tai v. AOL

Date: 

03/19/2001

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

America Online, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Loudon County, Virginia; Virginia Supreme Court

Case Number: 

No. 012761 (Va. Sup. Ct.)

Legal Counsel: 

Laura A. Heymann - AOL; Patrick J. Carome, Samir Jain - Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Nam Tai Electronics, Inc., a Hong Kong-based electronics company, subpoenaed AOL in connection with a lawsuit against 51 "John Doe" defendants alleging libel, trade libel, and violations of California's unfair business practices statute.  The lawsuit revolved around negative comments about Nam Tai posted to a Yahoo! message board pertaining to Nam Tai. 

After filing the complaint, Nam Tai obtained a subpoena in California directing Yahoo! to disclose its subscriber data (IP address) for "scovey2," one of the anonymous forum posters.  Based on this information, Nam Tai determined that "scovey2" obtained his Internet access through AOL.   Nam Tai then obtained a "commission" for out-of-state discovery from the California court to depose AOL's custodian of records in Virginia, in order to seek identifying information for "scovey2."  Nam Tai asked a Virginia state trial court to issue a subpoena, and AOL moved to quash the subpoena. 

The trial court denied AOL's motion to quash, concluding that it would enforce the California "commission" and reasoning that First Amendment concerns implicated by the libel and trade libel claims were not implicated by the California unfair business practices claim.  The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed, relying heavily on the principle of "comity" (that is, the respect states extend to the judgments of other states).  

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Subject Area: 

La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France v. Time Warner Cable

Date: 

10/01/2003

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Time Warner Cable

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of Connecticut

Case Number: 

CV030197400S

Legal Counsel: 

Scott R. Lucas, Michel Bayonne (for intervenor Jane Doe)

Publication Medium: 

Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France sought a "bill of discovery" in Connecticut state court compelling Time Warner Cable to disclose the identity of an individual who allegedly sent an anonymous email to several of its regional directors accusing the company of deceptive and unethical business practices.  The request was based on an ex parte order of a French court requiring Time Warner to give up this information.  Time Warner notified its subscriber of the Connecticut action, and she intervened through counsel to oppose the bill.

The court granted the bill of discovery.  It applied an unusual standard with two requirements.  First, the plaintiff must show that what it seeks is necessary to mount a claim or defense in another action, and that it has no other way of obtaining the desired material.  Second, the plaintiff must "demonstrate by detailed facts that there is probable cause to bring a potential cause of action." It defined "probable cause" as "knowledge of facts sufficient to justify a reasonable man in the belief that he has reasonable grounds for presenting an action . . . Its existence or nonexistence is determined by the court on the facts found."

The court found that La Societe Metro had put forward enough evidence to establish probable cause that it had suffered damages as a result of the defamatory action of the anonymous emailer (potentially under French law), and that it was seeking information about her identity in good faith and not for any improper purpose.

CMLP Notes: 

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Threat Source: 

CyberSLAPP.org

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Enterline v. The Pocono Record

Date: 

10/30/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., publisher of The Pocono Record

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

No. 3:08-cv-01934

Legal Counsel: 

Gayle C. Sproul - Levine Sullivan Kocht Schartz LLP

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Brenda Enterline subpoenaed The Pocono Record, a daily newspaper and news website serving northeast Pennsylvania, seeking the identity of individuals who made anonymous forum posts on its website.  

In September 2008, Enterline sued the Pocono Medical Center for sexual harassment.  The Pocono Record published an article about her lawsuit in its print and online editions.  A number of commenters posted to the website forum associated with the article, and some of the comments suggested that the authors had personal knowledge of the facts at issue in Enterline's lawsuit.  She then subpoenaed The Pocono Record, seeking information identifying eight of the anonymous speakers. The newspaper objected to the subpoena, arguing that it was premature (discovery had not yet commenced in the lawsuit), that it violated the First Amendment rights of the commenters, and that the reporter's privilege protected the identity of the commenters as sources.  Enterline line moved to compel The Record to comply and for sanctions.

The district court denied Enterline's motion. It held that The Record had standing to assert the First Amendment rights of the third-party anonymous commenters and that disclosure was not warranted under the circumstances.  The court refrained from determining "the full extent of the First Amendment right to anonymity," instead deciding the case based on the "good faith" standard applied in Doe v. 2TheMart.com, 140 F.Supp.2d 1088 (W.D. Was. 2001), which Enterline had argued for in her brief.  Under this standard, the court determined that disclosure was not appropriate because Enterline had not demonstrated that the information was unavailable from other sources.  The court did not address the newspaper's other grounds for refusing to comply with the subpoena.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Anonymity of 'Skanks in NYC' Blogger Could Hinge On Fact-Opinion Divide

Since the story broke in the New York Daily News on Tuesday, there has been a deluge of articles and posts (for example here, here, here,

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Cohen v. Google (Blogger)

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

01/02/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc. (parent of Blogger.com)

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

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

Case Number: 

100012/2009

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory P. Vidler, Debra J. Guzov, Matthew A. Pek, Anne W. Salisbury - Guzov Ofsink, LLC (for the anonymous blogger)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

In January 2009, Fashion model Liskula Cohen petitioned a New York state court for "pre-action" discovery from Google Inc. (on behalf of its subsidiary Blogger.com), seeking the identity of the anonymous operator of the Skanks in NYC blog.  The blog consists of only 5 posts, all posted on the same day in August 2008, and all making derogatory comments about Cohen.  According to court documents, Cohen alleges that the blog entries, including photographs, captions to photographs, and commentary describe her as a "skank" and a "ho," and otherwise depict her as sexually promiscuous, dishonest, and unclean.  She claims that these postings are libelous per se because they impugn her chastity and negatively reflect on her qualifications as a model.

On January 5, the court issued an "order to show cause," which required Google to appear before the court on January 26 for argument about whether disclosure of the blogger's identity should be ordered. 

Update:

1/26/09 - At a hearing, the court ordered Google to notify the anonymous blogger of the pending discovery request.

2/18/09 - Through counsel, the anonymous blogger filed a brief in opposition to Cohen's application for pre-action discovery. 

03/20/09 - The blog went offline sometime in March. The parties reportedly dispute what that means for the case.

8/17/09 - The court granted Cohen's petition, ruling that the statements on the blog were reasonably susceptible of defamatory meaning.

8/21/09 - Press reports indicate that the anonymous blogger's name is Rosemary Port.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Google Blogs

Doe v. TS

Date: 

03/27/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

"TS"; "Ronald"; "Kris"; "Bill"

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Clackamas County Circuit Court, Oregon Judicial Department 5th Judicial District

Case Number: 

CV 0803 0693

Legal Counsel: 

David M. Heineck, Jessica L. Goldman - Summit Law Group PLLC (for The Portland Mercury); Kevin H. Kono - Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (for Williamette Week)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

In September 2008, an Oregon state judge ruled that Oregon's media shield law, found at Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 44.510 to 44.540, protected the identity of anonymous commenters who posted allegedly defamatory statements on The Portland Mercury and Willamette Week websites.

According to the Portland Mercury, staff writer Amy Ruiz wrote a post in January 2008 about Portland mayoral candidate Sho Dozono.  In the comments section, a site user going by "Ronald" posted negative comments about Dozono's ties to a local businessman, Terry Beard.  The same commenter allegedly posted similar statements on the Willamette Week site. Proceeding anonymously, Beard filed a lawsuit against "Ronald" and other anonymous commenters and served a subpoena on The Portland Mercury and Williamette Week, seeking documents and records identifying them. When the two newspapers failed to produce responsive documents, Beard moved to compel them to produce documents identifying the anonymous commenters. The two newspapers teamed up to oppose the discovery request and won. 

Interestingly, Judge James E. Redman of Clackamas County Court did not treat the anonymous commenters as confidential sources.  Section 44.520(a) of the Oregon Revised Statutes protects from disclosure "[t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public." Instead, the court relied on section 44.520(b), which protects "[a]ny unpublished information obtained or prepared by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public."  Section 44.510(1) defines "information" as including "any written, oral, pictorial or electronically recorded news or other data." The court characterized "Ronald's" IP address as data.

On the question of whether the newspapers obtained this data in the course of newsgathering, Judge Redman drew a line based on the relevance of the blog comment to the post it's attached to:

If the comment had been totally unrelated to the blog post, then the argument could be made that the Portland Mercury did not receive it in the "course of gathering, receiving, or processing information for any medium of communication to the public." (source)

Concluding that the IP address fit within the shield law's "broad statutory language," the court denied Beard's motion to compel. Presumably, Beard will not be able to pursue the underlying lawsuit without the identity of the anonymous commenters.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

EDF Ventures v. Ressi

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

07/24/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Adeo Ressi

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara

Case Number: 

1-08-CV-118136

Legal Counsel: 

Adeo Ressi (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

In August 2008,  Michigan venture capital firm EDF Ventures subpoenaed Adeo Ressi, operator of The Funded, a website that enables entrepreneurs to rate venture capitalists anonymously.  The subpoena issued in connection with a defamation lawsuit against an anonymous commenter to the website, who warned readers to avoid EDF Ventures "unless you are desperate."

Ressi complied with the subpoena, but indicated that the records in his possession "showed nothing material about the identity" of the anonymous poster.  This is likely because The Funded has adopted affirmative measures to protect the anonymity of site users.

The disputed comment is still online.   

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

EDF Ventures v. Doe

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/24/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara

Case Number: 

1-08-CV-118136

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In July 2008,  Michigan venture capital firm EDF Ventures sued an anonymous commenter to The Funded, a website that enables entrepreneurs to rate venture capitalists anonymously.  The lawsuit, which alleges defamation, revolves around a post warning readers to avoid EDF Ventures "unless you are desperate."

In August 2008, EDF Ventures subpoenaed Adeo Ressi, operator of The Funded, seeking the identity of the anonymous poster. Ressi complied with the subpoena, but indicated that the records in his possession "showed nothing material about the identity" of the anonymous poster.  This is likely because The Funded has adopted affirmative measures to protect the anonymity of site users.

The disputed comment is still online.   

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

avm 6/12 - no new info on docket

Maryland High Court Hears Argument on Internet Anonymity

On Monday, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral argument in a case requiring it to decide what showing an aggrieved plaintiff must make before a court will order a website operator to reveal the identity of an anonymous commenter.  Paul Levy of Public Citizen argued the case for Independent Newspapers

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Thompson v. Gelin

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Date: 

12/09/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

William Gelin

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Administrative

Court Name: 

Florida Bar

Legal Counsel: 

Norm Kent

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Jack Thompson, a former Florida attorney, recently disbarred, filed a complaint with the Florida Bar against JAABlog publisher and attorney William Gelin. Thompson is seeking to have Gelin sanctioned by the Florida Bar (potential punishments range from reprimand to disbarment) because his JAABlog site "traffics in rumors, gossip, and scandal about members of the legal community, including primarily judges." The site allows unmoderated, anonymous posting of blog comments. The complaint centers on the anonymous comments. Thompson's allegations have caused the Florida Bar to draft a letter of inquiry to Gelin on December 5, 2008. Thus, in accordance with Florida Bar rules, a new file was opened and generated by virtue of Thompson's latest complaint.

(Portion above submitted by Guest.)

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Dynacq International, Inc. v. Yahoo! Inc.

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

06/26/2002

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yahoo! Inc. d/b/a Texas Yahoo!

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

53rd District Court, Texas; Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District

Case Number: 

GN202048 (trial), 03-02-00574-CV (appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

James M. Richardson -Bankston & Richardson, L.L.P. (for John Doe)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

In June 2002, Dynacq International, Inc. subpoenaed Yahoo! seeking the identity of anonymous posters to its Yahoo! Message Board.  Yaho0! notified the anonymyous posters, and one John Doe moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the subpoena violated his right to speak anonymously and that the Texas court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.  The court quashed the subpoena in a bench ruling, the details of which are not known.  Dynacq appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals of Texas, but subsequently withdrew its appeal. 

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Threat Source: 

CyberSLAPP.org
Public Citizen

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, Inc. (Subpoena)

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

08/01/2006

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Independent Newspapers, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Maryland; Court of Appeals of Maryland

Case Number: 

17C06011665 (Circuit Court); No. 63 (Court of Appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce W. Sanford - Baker & Hostetler, LLP; Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Real estate developer and business owner Zebulon Brodie subpoenaed Independent Newspapers, Inc. ("INI") seeking the identity of three anonymous commenters to a community forum hosted by INI.  The subpoena issued in connection with a defamation lawsuit Brodie filed against INI and John Doe defendants in Maryland state court. 

According to a brief filed on appeal, the lawsuit revolves around statements criticizing Brodie for selling his historic, pre-Civil War home to another developer (the home subsequently burned down) and accusing him of maintaining a dirty Dunkin' Donuts establishment and letting trash "waft" into a nearby waterway.  Appellant's Brief, at 4-6.  INI removed the disputed comments after Brodie complained to it, but Brodie sued nonetheless.

INI moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized it from liability for comments posted by third parties.  At the same time, Brodie served a subpoena demanding that INI identify the Doe defendants "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here."  INI moved to quash the subpoena and for a protective order, arguing that Brodie had failed to make the legal and evidentiary showing necessary to overcome First Amendment protection for anonymous speech.  The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against INI based on CDA 230, but ordered INI to provide identifying information for the anonymous commenters.

INI filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court granted.  On reconsideration, the court determined that the statements about the sale and burning of Brodie's home were not defamatory statements "of and concerning" Brodie, and thus could not support a claim for defamation or a subpoena seeking the identity of those posters.  The court determined, however, that the statements relating to his Dunkin' Donuts establishment could support a claim for defamation, and it ordered the unmasking of the individuals who made those statements. 

INI then requested the specific allegations of defamation related to the food-service establishment, and Brodie's counsel responded with a letter and a copy of the relevant forum threads indicating that the posters responsible for the statements about the Dunkin' Donuts were "RockyRacoon MD" and "Suze," who were not named as defendants in the complaint.  Brodie served a new subpoena seeking to identify these two posters as well as "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here," who had been protected by the court's earlier decision on reconsideration because their statements only related to the burning of the house.  INI moved to quash this second subpoena, but the court denied the motion and ordered INI to comply.  

INI appealed.  The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case on December 8, 2008.

Update:

2/27/2009: The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the district court and quashed the subpoena.  It held that disclosure of the posters' identities would be improper because Brodie did not have a valid cause of action for defamation against any of them.  Specifically, the court held that Brodie could not obtain the identities of "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here" because the trial court had already ruled that their statements were not "of and concerning" him.  The court held that Brodie had no valid cause of action against "RockyRacoonMD" and "Suze" because the statute of limitations barred his any claim he might have had against them -- he had not named them in his original complaint nor timely moved to amend his complaint to include them. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, Inc. (Lawsuit)

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/26/2006

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Independent Newspapers, Inc.; "CorsicaRiver"; "Born &amp Raised Here"; "chatdusoleil"

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary
Media Company

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Maryland; Court of Appeals of Maryland

Case Number: 

17C06011665 (Circuit Court); No. 63 (Court of Appeals)

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce W. Sanford - Baker & Hostetler, LLP; Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Material Removed

Description: 

Real estate developer and business owner Zebulon Brodie sued Independent Newspapers, Inc. ("INI") and three anonymous commenters to a community forum hosted by INI for defamation and conspiracy. According to a brief filed on appeal, the lawsuit revolves around statements criticizing Brodie for selling his historic, pre-Civil War home to another developer (the home subsequently burned down) and accusing him of maintaining a dirty Dunkin' Donuts establishment and letting trash "waft" into a nearby waterway. Appellant's Brief, at 4-6. INI removed the disputed comments after Brodie complained to it, but Brodie sued nonetheless.

INI moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) immunized it from liability for comments posted by third parties. At the same time, Brodie served a subpoena demanding that INI identify the Doe defendants "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here." INI moved to quash the subpoena and for a protective order, arguing that Brodie had failed to make the legal and evidentiary showing necessary to overcome First Amendment protection for anonymous speech. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against INI based on CDA 230, but ordered INI to provide identifying information for the anonymous commenters.

INI filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court granted. On reconsideration, the court determined that the statements about the sale and burning of Brodie's home were not defamatory statements "of and concerning" Brodie, and thus could not support a claim for defamation or a subpoena seeking the identity of those posters. The court determined, however, that the statements relating to his Dunkin' Donuts establishment could support a claim for defamation, and it ordered the unmasking of the individuals who made those statements.

Subsequent proceedings revealed that two anonymous posters not named in the complaint or previous subpoena -- “RockyRacoonMD” and “Suze” -- were responsible for the comments about the Dunkin' Donuts establishment. Brodie served a new subpoena seeking to identify these two posters as well as the three others whose identity had been protected by the court's early opinion on reconsideration. INI moved to quash this second subpoena, but the court denied the motion and ordered INI to comply.  INI appealed.

Update:

2/27/2009: The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the district court and quashed the subpoena.  It held that disclosure of the posters' identities would be improper because Brodie did not have a valid cause of action for defamation against any of them.  Specifically, the court held that Brodie could not obtain the identities of "CorsicaRiver," "chatdusoleil," and "Born &amp Raised Here" because the trial court had already ruled that their statements were not "of and concerning" him.  The court held that Brodie had no valid cause of action against "RockyRacoonMD" and "Suze" because the statute of limitations barred his any claim he might have had against them -- he had not named them in his original complaint nor timely moved to amend his complaint to include them. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Public Citizen

Matrixx Initiatives v. John Doe

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

12/12/2002

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe; Steven Edward Dick; Sherry Jones; James Jones; Floyd D Schneider; Veritasconari; Censorshipmtxx; Janet Bossart

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Arizona Superior Court, Maricopa County

Case Number: 

CV2002-023934

Legal Counsel: 

Ivan Mathew (Sherry and James Jones); Pro Se (all others)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Pharmaceutical company Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. sued several named and anonymous Internet users in Arizone state court over negative posts about the company on the Yahoo! Finance and Silicon Investor message boards.  Although the court filings for the case are not available, filings in related actions state that Matrixx brought claims of defamation, trade libel, and interference with contractual relations and business expectancies.  See Matrixx Initiatives v. Doe, 138 Cal.App.4th 872, 875 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006).  Matrixx alleged that it suffered "unusual" fluctuations in its stock as a result of the statements, including "relatively large-volume selling near the close of the market."  Id.

In an attempt to discern the identities of the anonymous users, Matrixx filed subpoenas against numerous individuals and organizations in other courts.  Two of these subpoenas are addressed in CMLP threat entries Matrixx Intiatives v. Barbary Coast Capital and Matrixx Initiatives v. Mulligan.  Matrixx also appears to have sought discovery in the Arizona court from Qwest Communications International Inc., but the details are not clear from the available record. 

According to the Arizona docket for the case, Matrixx voluntarily withdrew the case but reserved leave to refile at a later date.  The court granted the dismissal without prejudice on January 31, 2007.  As of December 04, 2008, Matrixx does not appear to have refiled the case.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

CyberSLAPP.org

Mystery Blogger Caught Up in First Amendment Flap

On Monday, the blog-hosting service Blogger took down a blog called "Jeffrey Denner's ineffective assistance of counsel" after Jeffrey Denner notified Blogger that a Massachusetts court had issued a restraining order prohibiting one Derrick Gillenwater from using the words "Jeffrey" or "Denner" or "Jeffrey Denner&qu

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Denner v. Boston Bob

Date: 

12/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Boston Bob

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Suffolk County

Case Number: 

No. 05-5469

Legal Counsel: 

Boston Bob (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On December 1, 2008, the blog-hosting service Blogger removed the blog titled "Jeffrey Denner's ineffective assistance of counsel" after Jeffrey Denner delivered to it a court order prohibiting Derrick Gillenwater from using the words "Jeffrey" or "Denner" or "Jeffrey Denner" in any blog postings. Blogger notified the anonymous operator of the blog, who goes by the moniker "Boston Bob."  On December 2, Boston Bob replied as follows: 

The problem is, I'm not Derrick Gillenwater, nor do I operate under his
authority.

I am an independent anonymous person.

Please repost my blog immediately.

Thank you.

Blogger restored the blog and indicated that it would notify Mr. Denner.

Boston Bob created the blog in mid-October 2008, after apparently meeting Derrick Gillenwater and discussing Gillenwater's malpractice lawsuit against Jeffrey Denner and Kevin Barron, two Boston lawyers. Gillenwater himself is a blogger, and at the time he also operated a blog dedicated to criticizing Jeffrey Denner and discussing the lawsuit at http://jeffreydenner.blogspot.com.

At around the same time that Boston Bob started his blog, Denner and Barron obtained a restraining order and then a preliminary injunction from a Massachusetts state court prohibiting Gillenwater from blogging about Denner and from filing motions or pleadings without prior permission of the court.  For details, see our database entry, Denner v. Gillenwater.

Boston Bob published only three posts before Blogger temporarily removed the blog, all of which related to Gillenwater's lawsuit and alleged malpractice on the part of Denner and Barron. Since the takedown, Boston Bob has published a series of posts criticizing the court's gag order as unconstitutional.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Anonymity