Free Speech

Connecticut v. Turner

Date: 

06/11/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Harold Turner

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Name: 

Connecticut Superior Court

Case Number: 

HHD -CR09-0632655-T

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Andrew Orozco - Bailey & Orozco

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In June 2009, state authorities in Connecticut charged right-wing New Jersey blogger and Internet radio host Hal Turner with inciting injury to person or property, a class C felony.  According to press accounts, Turner urged readers to "take up arms" against two state legislators who introduced a controversial bill on Catholic parish finances.  According to NJ.com:

"It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally," Turner wrote. "These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

In the next paragraph, Turner added: "If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they're going to get uppity with us about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too."

Turner's attorney told the First Amendment Center that  "the case is about freedom of speech. 

Turner was released on $500 bail.

Update:

06/24/09 - Turner was charged by federal authorities in Illinois for a separate incident, in which he allegedly incited his listeners to kill 7th Circuit judges. See our database entry, United States v. Turner.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

6/24/09 AVM - added complaint, Turner now charged for other threats, might mean a delay in this case.

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Australia's Facebook Five and the Right to Whinge About Your Boss Online

It's hard to be a prison guard in Australia, and not just because the entire country is a penal colony — zing!  Apparently you run the risk of being fired for griping about your job in a private Facebook group, even if other corrections officers are the only ones reading your complaint.  Such is the threat looming over those officers whom the Australian press has dubbed

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Weight Watchers from Hell – Iran’s New Method for Slimming Tortured Bloggers

A little while back, I wrote about the Iranian persecution of bloggers and opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Out of the Frying Pan and into the Mildly Uncomfortable Sauna: The Not-So-Bad-But-Still-Unconstitutional Social Networking Ban

 

 

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“Crass and Uncouth” MySpace Posting not Grounds for Expulsion

Once again, the powers that be are all in a tizzy because of content on a social network.  Joining the ranks of city officials, private employers, and high school administrators in sanctioning speech online is the dean of a nursing school.  As in the Houston’s Restaurant case, however, her non-proportional response has been corrected by a court of law.

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Martin v. Langlois

Date: 

06/01/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Michelle Langlois

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Rhode Island Family Court, Kent County

Legal Counsel: 

H. Jefferson Melish - Rhode Island ACLU

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Withdrawn

Description: 

Michelle Langlois, whose brother is embroiled in a pending child custody case with his ex-wife, posted information and commentary about her brother's case to her Facebook account.  Tracey Martin, the ex-wife, filed a "domestic abuse" petition in Kent County Family Court against Langlois, claiming that her posts constituted "harassment" and a "mental assault" on Martin and her children. 

Family Court Judge Michael Forte, who presided over Martin's petition, issued an order restraining Langlois from "posting details about the children and the pending Family Court proceedings on the Internet."  After this order was issued, the Rhode Island ACLU intervened in the case on Langlois' behalf.   The ACLU filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the court's order was an unconstitutional violation of Langlois' First Amendment rights, and that the Family Court had no jurisdiction to issue the order. 

On July 28, 2009, a day before the court was scheduled to hold a hearing on the motion, Martin voluntarily dismissed her complaint.  This had the effect of rescinding the court's initial restraining order.

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Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

07/29/2009 - LB editing 

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Subject Area: 

Rhode Island Judge Pokes Free Speech on Facebook

Restraints on speech prior to publication are almost never OK. It wasn't OK in the 1930s when Minnesota tried to enjoin the publication of an anti-Semitic newspaper. It wasn't even OK in the 1970s when the U.S. government tried to prevent The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing the top-secret Pentagon Papers.

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Virginia v. Ostergren

Date: 

06/11/2008

Threat Type: 

Other

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Betty Ostergren

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond Division)

Case Number: 

08-cv-362

Legal Counsel: 

Rebecca Kim Glenberg - ACLU of Virginia

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Betty Ostergren sued the Attorney General of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, in his official capacity to challenge Virginia's Personal Information Privacy Act (PIPA), Va. Code Ann. § 591.443.2, as a violation of the First Amendment. Ostergren is a self-proclaimed advocate of privacy rights and has posted on her website, The Virginia Watchdog, examples of public documents containing social security numbers (SSNs) "to alert members of the public that their own personal information may be online somewhere."  (Compl. ¶ 7.)  A recent amendment to PIPA made it unlawful to "[i]ntentionally communicate an individual's social security number to the general public," Compl. ¶ 13, even if those SSNs are included in public documents.

After Ostergren's lawsuit was filed, counsel for the Attorney General of Virginia agreed that, if Ostergren maintained her website with the posted records, she would be violating the law and be subject to civil sanctions, including fines, investigative demands, and injunctions.  Ostergren sought a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Virginia's PIPA as it applies to public records, and a declaration that the statute is unconstitutional as applied to public records.  (Compl. Requests for Relief ¶ A-B.)

In an August 22, 2008 opinion, a federal court in Virginia declared the Virginia PIPA unconstitutional as applied to Ostergren's website, but sought further briefing on the "propriety and scope of an injunction other than with respect to Ostegren's [sic] website as it exists."  (Op. 33.)  In a further order on June 2, 2009, the judge permanently enjoined the enforcement of the Virginia PIPA against "any iteration of [Ostergren's] website, now or in the future, that simply republishes publicly obtainable documents containing unredacted SSNs of Virginia legislators, Virginia Executive Officers or Clerks of Court as part as [sic] an effort to reform Virginia law and practice respecting publication of SSNs online."  (Order 1.)

On June 24, 2009, McDonnell appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit.  Ostergren filed a cross-appeal on July 8, 2009.

On July 26, 2010, the  Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that district court's grant of injunctive relief was an abuse of discretion. The court reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.(Appeals Decision 45)

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CMLP Notes: 

07/14/2009 - LB editing

case is Ostergren v. McDonnell, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46039

07/28/10 - AVM added appeals decision and links/pdf

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Educators Reprimand Student for Private Facebook Messages

The Supreme Court once famously said that public school students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”  Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S.

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Universal v. Reimerdes

Date: 

01/14/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Shawn Reimerdes; Eric Corley; Roman Kazan; and 2600 Enterprises, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Media Company

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuirt

Case Number: 

00-CV-0277 (district court); 00-9185 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Martin Garbus, George E. Singleton, David Y. Atlas, Edward Hernstadt - Davis & Gilbert LLP

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Settled (partial)

Description: 

In 2000, several movie studios filed suit against Shawn Reimerdes, Roman Kazan, and Eric Corley after 2600.com published the DVD descrambling program DeCSS, which allowed users to circumvent anti-piracy protections allegedly in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Judge Kaplan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision. 

Near the outset of the lawsuit, the district court granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction barring the defendants from posting DeCSS. Despite the order, Corley continued to engage in what he termed "electronic civil disobedience" by posting links on 2600.com to other sites that made DeCSS available. In the spring of 2000, Kazan and Reimerdes reached separate settlements with the plaintiffs in which they agreed to permanently refrain from posting DeCSS or linking to other sites that make DeCSS available. On April 10, 2000, 2600 Enterprises, Inc., was added as a defendant.

In district court, the defendants argued that their conduct did not violate the DMCA and that application of the DMCA to their activities violated the First Amendment.  The court rejected these contentions, reasoning that, while computer code is entitled to First Amendment protections, the DMCA restricts the non-expressive aspect of code -- the functional act of descrambling. The court held that the anti-trafficking provision of the DMCA, as applied to DeCSS code, is a content neutral regulation that furthers an important governmental interest and which does not unduly restrict expressive activities. The court also ruled that it could enjoin and impose liability for linking to websites publishing DeCSS so long as "those responsible for the link (a) know . . . that the offending material is on the linked-to site, (b) know that it is circumvention technology that may not be lawfully offered, and (c) create or maintain the link for the purpose of disseminating that technology." The court found that the defendants' conduct satified these criteria.

On May 30, 2001, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision. 

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CMLP Notes: 

PACER does not have the case documents.  The important ones probably can be found through searching, since this was a huge case.

Also, any number of new/discussion links are available through a quick search.

 

CaityR editing

7/10/09 - CMF 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

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An Inter-Newspaper Cease-and-Desist Letter: My Trip to the Buffet of Wrong

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Warning: UK Libel Law May be Hazardous to Your Health

It seems that the American Congress is not the only group enraged by England’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws.  Sense About Science, a British charity that promotes public understanding of science, is lobbying the

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Employee Privacy and Social Networks: The Case for a New Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

“Three can keep a secret, if two are dead.” – Benjamin Franklin

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Fool's Gold - Athletes, Sports Associations, and Citizen Speech

The Iranian government has been busy in its efforts to smother free expression.  The regime has raided school meetings, newsrooms, political offices, blocked social networks, and

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The Facebook Snatchers: Could your Employer Hijack your Account?

Let's assume you are employed, use Facebook, have a decent grasp of privacy settings, and want to occassionally express your opinion. Welcome to Facebook Club.

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Zisa v. Labrosse

Date: 

02/24/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Deborah Labrosse

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court, Bergen County

Case Number: 

L-001824-09

Legal Counsel: 

Ted Takvorian

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

New Jersey police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisahas filed suit against an elementary school teacher in New Jersey state court, asserting that she made defamatory comments about him on a NJ.com, a local news website and forum.  According to news reports, the suit claims Deborah Labrosse stated that Zisa runs his police department by "Gestapo rules" and that she made other comments allegedly intended to damage Zisa's reputation. Labrosse has told the press that she thinks Zisa filed the suit to intimidate her and stifle her criticism.

Labrosse filed a counterclaim against Zisa, asserting that he violated her First Amendment right to free speech and tampered with her forum posts, according to news reports. In her counterclaim, Labrosse also asserts Zisa subjected her to improper surveillance. 

According to news reports, Labrosse filed motions for dismissal and summary judgment on April 17, 2009, but the judge said he lacked enough information to grant the motions so early on in the litigation. 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: NorthJersey.com

CMF - 6/5/09

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Bring Me his Head and Hands: Unconstitutional Internet Proscription

Dear friends, let’s begin with a little story about the death of liberty at Rome. When Mark Antony had the chance, he proscribed (read: murdered) the orator Cicero.

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Tenth Circuit Upholds Restrictions on Student Speech

In a recent decision, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Colorado District Court’s rejection of a student’s First Amendment and Equal Protection claims over a forced apology resulting from her valedictory address.  The case, Corder v

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