Free Speech

Paving Hell: ACTA Encourages Oppression from Friend and Foe Alike

The drafting of the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) isn’t going so well.

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Calling Out Former Porn Stars? Beware of '2257 Regs'

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton made a career for himself by taking shots at the Hollywood elite and celebs du jour.

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Barclays v. TheFlyOnTheWall.com: Hot News Doctrine Alive and Kicking; Will News Aggregators Be Next?

In 2003, prolific legal scholar and 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner published a law review article entitled "Misappropriation: A Dirge," which discussed—among other things—the continued viability of &quo

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Keeping Online Speech Outside the Schoolhouse Gate

A freshman at Oak Grove High School in Missouri used Facebook last month to vent about another student: "Wow, [expletive] alert," wrote Megan Wisemore.

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Fake Giraffe Update: Louisiana Court Sides With Satirical Website

Nicholas Brilleaux, publisher of Hammond Action News, got a big victory yesterday when a Louisiana judge dissolved an order prohibiting him from posting a satirical news story about a fictional giraffe attack on his blog.

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Supreme Court Grants Cert. in Snyder v. Phelps

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Snyder v. Phelps, the funeral picketing "God Hates Fags" case involving the kooky Phelpsian Westboro Baptist Church.  Albert Snyder, the father of a U.S.

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Hello Gorgeous! The Streisand Effect Survives Assassination Attempt

I have written plenty of posts in which I have opined that sue-happy entities simply do not understand the Streisand Effect.

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Let's Make A Deal! Will ACTA Force an End to Executive Agreements?

Things aren't looking good for the American public. While Americans generally love the idea of being tough on crime, I doubt grandmothers want to ardently police the online habits of their grandchildren.

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Each Man an Island? Record Industry Denies that Three Strikes Ban Will Be Collective Punishment

No man is an island, no man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own
We need one another, so I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend

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The Digital Riddle: When Sex Laws Meet the Internet, Confusion Reigns

Predictability is important when it comes to the law. Citizens should know what sort of punishment they should expect for engaging in criminal behavior. If offends our notions of justice when wildly different sentences are handed down for similar crimes.

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United States v. Madison

Date: 

09/24/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Elliott Madison (Elliot Madison); Michael Wallschlaeger; Elena Madison; Jennifer Sobolewski; James Weiss, Irina Weiss; Maik Hasenbank

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas; U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn)

Case Number: 

1:09-mc-00647-DLI (federal)

Legal Counsel: 

Martin R. Stolar (primary in New York); Claudia Davidson

Publication Medium: 

Micro-blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Elliott Madison (also spelled as Elliot Madison), along with Michael Wallschlaeger, was arrested by the Pennsylvania state police after using Twitter messages to relay information from police scanners and maps to protestors of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. They were charged with "hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a commnication facility, and possession of instruments of crime". According to Martin Stolar, Madison's attorney, the charge of hindering prosecution arose from the fact that Madison announced that the police had issued an order to disperse to the protestors.

A week after the G-20 summit arrest, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents searched Madison's New York home and seized his property, including his computers and the records he keeps for his occupation as a mental health facility counselor. Elena Madison, Jennifer Sobolewski, Michael Wallschlaeger, James Weiss, Irina Weiss, and Maik Hasenbank were also residents of this address at the time. The search warrant used in the search "asked for evidence that indicated...[potential] violations of federal rioting laws." If Madison is found guilty of violating the rioting law (18 U.S.C. §2101), he could face a penalty of up to five years in prison. Madison asked the court for a temporary order to prevent officials from examining the seized property until the court had the opportunity to examine the search warrant.  He also filed a motion to recover the seized property. Stolar argued that the search was unconstitutional and violated Madison's free speech rights. However, an Eastern District New York judge ruled that the government's search was not illegal and lifted the temporary stay, finding that the search warrant was "sufficiently particular and in compliance with the First Amendment".

The criminal charges in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania were dropped after the New York investigation commenced, as the law enforcement agencies felt that the G-20 activities "were not isolated incidents." Madison has not been charged in New York yet, and although he has attempted to appeal the court's order, officials are not prohibited from examining the property that they seized.

CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [11/24/09]

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1-High

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Google's "Oprah" Moment, Gwyneth Paltrow's Rave, and Two Tests for FTC's Endorsement Guides

It could have been a moment right out of The Oprah Winfrey Show.  But instead of the entire audience getting Pontiac G6s (click here for a fun mash-up video of that big event), all the reporters attending the unveiling of Google's new Nexus One mobile phone on January 5 were given a special offer: they could get one of the phones for free, or to opt for a free, 30-day trial, after which the phone will be returned (loan agreement). (The free offer is mentioned in the 1:55 p.m. posting on this Wall Street Journal live blog of the press conference.)  It appears that some other reporters who were not at the event also got the phones.

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Zuleger v. Klocko

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

04/01/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Paul Klocko

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Dean Zuleger, the Village Administrator in Weston, Wisconsin, sent a letter to Paul Klocko, a local businessman, demanding that he cease making anonymous derogatory statements about him on the website for the Wausau Daily Herald.  Klocko had posted his comments on the Daily Herald's website after Zuleger was named Person of the Year by the paper.  According to the Associated Press:

Readers anonymously flooded the Wausau Daily Herald's Web site with comments bashing Zuleger's salary, his management style, his weight. One person suggested his third chin should have been nominated.

''I have just two words for Dean Zuleger, and they are ... A) anger management. B) salad bar. C) Rod Blagojevich. D) all of the above. The correct answer is D.,'' one posting read.

Zuleger asked the Daily Herald for the identity of the user behind the comments, and the newspaper complied with his request by releasing the e-mail address associated with Klocko's username.  Zuleger contacted the Daily Herald and demanded to know the identify of the commenter and the paper handed over one critic's e-mail address.

Zuleger then sent a letter on his official stationery, telling Klocko to stop the personal attacks and ''come out from behind the cloak'' and meet him.

The Daily Herald later apologized to Klocko for revealing his identity and the paper's corporate parent, Gannett Co., has clarified its policies on anonymous speech, stating that it will release information only if ordered by a court or if a comment contains a threat of imminent harm.

No lawsuit has been filed.

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CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [11/28/09]

Priority: 

1-High

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Florida v. RateMyCop.com

Date: 

05/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

RateMyCop.com

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

The Tallahassee Police Department subpoenaed records from RateMyCop.com after an anonymous user posted the name, address, and telephone number of a Tallahassee police officer on the site, according to Wired. When the authorities obtained identifying information for the poster, they arrested and charged Robert Brayshaw with a violation of Fla. Stat. § 843.17. 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.

A state court judge ultimately dismissed the charges against Brayshaw 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. 

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Priority: 

1-High

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CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [10/23/2009] (also related entry State of Florida v. Brayshaw: http://www.citmedialaw.org/threats/state-florida-v-brayshaw)

Subject Area: 

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.

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Priority: 

1-High

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CMLP Notes: 

EK - editing [10/23/2009]

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

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Smith-Green Community School Corp. v. T.V. & M.K. (minors)

Date: 

01/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

T.V.; M.K.

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana

Case Number: 

1:09-cv-00290

Legal Counsel: 

Kenneth Falk-ACLU Indiana

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

High School Principal Austin Couch suspended two female high school sophomores from participating in extracurricular athletics after Couch obtained sexually-suggestive photos that the students took of themselves and posted to MySpace.  The students, T.V. and M.K., subsequently filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana alleging First Amendment violations by Couch and the Smith-County Community School Corporation, which operates the high school.

According to their complaint, T.V. and M.K. took photos of themselves at a slumber party in the summer before the 2009-2010 school year, including photos pretending to kiss and lick a novelty phallus-shaped lollypop and wearing lingerie with dollar bills stuck in their clothes.  After the students posted these photos to their MySpace pages, an unknown person gave them to Couch, who suspended the students from all extracurricular activities during the school year, including athletics.  The students agreed to attend three counseling sessions and apologize to an all-male panel of coaches in order to reduce their suspension to 25% of their fall extracurricular activities.

CMLP Notes: 

 

 

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

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Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette, Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists

Date: 

10/26/1995

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

American Coalition of Life Activists, Advocates for Life Ministries, Michael Bray, Andrew Burnett, et al.

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

US District Court for the District of Oregon; US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Case Number: 

3:95-cv-1671 (trial level); 99-35320 (appeal, also associated with 99-35325, 99-35327, 99-35331, 99-35333, 99-35405)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$4,730,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Christopher D. Ferrara (from American Catholic Lawyers Association), David T. Daulton, Norman L. Lindstedt, William D. Bailey

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Planned Parenthood and the other plaintiffs sued the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) and others for alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to the creation of "wanted" posters that listed the names and contact information of various abortion providers and the Nuremberg Files website, which contained anti-abortion advocacy and the names and addresses of over 200 abortion providers, who the site characterized as "war criminals."  The website said that this information would be used in future war crimes trials in "perfectly legal courts once the tide of this nation’s opinion turns against the wanton slaughter of God’s children." Those who brought the lawsuit argued that these materials constituted threats of bodily harm or intimidation prohibited by FACE and RICO.

Originally, a jury in federal court in Oregon awarded the plaintiffs approximately $108 million in punitive damages after finding the website and posters to be "true threats." The federal district judge also prohibited further display of the "wanted" posters.  ACLA brought many appeals, and the case stayed in the court system for years. Ultimately, the the district court ultimately upheld liability and awarded approximately $4.73 million in damages.

The Nuremberg Files no longer attributes its information to ACLA because ACLA members objected to some of the materials on the website.

CMLP Notes: 

EK editing (10/08/2009)

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

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New FTC Rules Aim to Kill the Buzz on Blogs

On October 5, the Federal Trade Commission issued new guidelines (large pdf) on advertising involving endorsements and testimonials.

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United States v. Turner

Date: 

06/24/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Hal Turner

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:09-cr-00542

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Andrew Orozco - Bailey & Orozco; Nishay Kumar Sanan

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

-

In June 2009, federal authorities in Chicago charged right-wing New Jersey blogger and Internet radio host Hal Turner with threatening "to assault and murder three United States judges with intent to retaliate against [them] on account of performance of official duties," in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)(B).

Turner wrote postings on June 2 and 3 calling on his readers to take action in response to a ruling issued by a panel of Seventh Circuit judges.  According to the criminal complaint and indictment, Turner wrote that "These judges deserve to be killed" and posted pictures of the judges, their work addresses, and a photo of the federal building where they work.  Turner pled not guilty to the charges.

In September 2009, a federal judge in Chicago transferred the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The trial was then transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, but with a federal judge from Louisiana -- U.S. District Court Judge Donald Walter of  the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana-- presiding.

The trial, which began December 1, 2009, ended with a mistrial after a day and a half of testimony and a day and a half of deliberations, when the jury announced that it was deadlocked.

The retrial is scheduled to begin March 1, 2010.

Update:

03/10/2010 - The AP reports that the court declared a second mistrial on Wednesday, March 10 due to juror deadlock. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

AVM- same turner as Connecticut v. Turner.

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