Butler University v. Zimmerman

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/08/2009

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Indiana

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Subpoena Enforced
Withdrawn

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
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... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jess Zimmerman

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Indiana

Location of Party: 

  • Indiana

Legal Counsel: 

Dan Altman
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."

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • Anonymity
  • Student Speech
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Indiana

Source of Law: 

  • Indiana

Court Name: 

Marion Superior Court, State of Indiana

Court Type: 

State

Case Number: 

49D020901PL001164

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Stylianou Oct/09