Doty v. Molnar (Subpoena to The Billings Gazette)

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: 

Subpoena

Date: 

01/01/2008

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Montana

Disposition: 

Subpoena Quashed

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Russell Doty, a former candidate for local political office in Montana, subpoenaed The Billings Gazette, seeking identifying information for three anonymous individuals who posted comments to an article on the newspaper's website in 2008 using the pseudonyms "CutiePie," "Always, wondering,"... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Billings Gazette

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Media Company

Location of Party: 

  • Montana

Location of Party: 

  • Montana

Legal Counsel: 

Martha Sheehy - Sheehy Law Firm
Description

Russell Doty, a former candidate for local political office in Montana, subpoenaed The Billings Gazette, seeking identifying information for three anonymous individuals who posted comments to an article on the newspaper's website in 2008 using the pseudonyms "CutiePie," "Always, wondering," and "High Plains Drifter."  Doty issued the subpoena in connection with a defamation lawsuit against his former political rival, Brad Molnar, in which he alleged that Molnar made false statements in 2004 concerning Doty's qualifications to run for office. 

Doty alleged that Molnar was one of the pseudonymous posters (Molnar denied this in a deposition), and that the other posters might serve as witnesses about the harm to his reputation caused by Molnar's 2004 statements.  The Billings Gazette filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that Montanta's shield law protected it from having to disclose the commenters' IP and email addresses. 

On September 3, 2008, Judge Todd Baugh of Montana's 13th Judicial District granted the motion to quash, ruling that Montana's shield law protected the commenters' identifying information.  Montana's shield law says that a news organization or any person "connected with or employed by [a news organization] for the purpose of gathering, writing, editing, or disseminating news” may not be required to "disclose any information obtained or prepared or the source of that information . . . if the information was gathered, received, or processed in the course of [a reporter's] employment or [a news organization's] business."  Mont. Code § 26-1-902(1).  Judge Baugh agreed with the Gazette's argument that this language is broad enough to encompass data gathered when a newspaper website user posts a comment. 

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Shield Laws
  • Third-Party Content
  • Anonymity
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Montana

Source of Law: 

  • Montana

Court Name: 

Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County

Court Type: 

State

Case Number: 

DV 07-022

Relevant Documents: