Swartz v. Does

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: 

02/11/2008

Status: 

Pending

Location: 

Tennessee

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In February 2008, Donald and Terry Keller Swartz sued three anonymous defendants for defamation and invasion of privacy in a Tennessee state court. The Swartzes are a prominent couple in Old Hickory, Tennessee, where they buy and restore real estate, manage rental... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-3

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Tennessee

Location of Party: 

  • Tennessee

Legal Counsel: 

Stephen Grauberger (for Doe 1)
Description

In February 2008, Donald and Terry Keller Swartz sued three anonymous defendants for defamation and invasion of privacy in a Tennessee state court. The Swartzes are a prominent couple in Old Hickory, Tennessee, where they buy and restore real estate, manage rental properties, and operate a halfway house for recovering substance abusers. They are also active in local politics and the Old Hickory Village Neighborhood Association.

In September 2007, an anonymous person created the Stop Swartz blog, which criticizes the Swartzes' real estate activties and other aspects of their personal and political lives. According to the Swartzes' complaint, the blog's author (Doe #1) and an anonymous accomplice (Doe #2) posted false and defamatory statements about them on the blog, including statements accusing them of committing arson, evicting renters "without a moments notice," and failing to record property sales in a local registry. Additionally, the complaint alleges that Does #1 and #2 invaded Terry Keller Swartz's privacy by re-publishing a statement posted anonymously on Craigslist.org (by Doe #3) that revealed that she was an "ex-addict."

Finally, the Swartzes claim that a posting on Stop Swartz invaded their privacy by encouraging readers to stalk them. According to the complaint, the post read:

When you see a Swartz, no matter how trivial it may seem, leave a comment. Extra points if you observe them outside the village. This serves two purposes: First, it helps us all to keep tabs on Don and Terry and to know what they are up to. Second, it sends a clear message to Don and Terry that their actions are not being ignored . . . . We will tolerate their crap no longer.

The complaint requests an unspecified amount of of compensatory and punitive damages. The Swartzes' lawyer told Tennessean.com that he intends to subpoena Google -- the owner of Blogger, which hosts Stop Swartz -- to uncover the identity of the blog's author.

Update:

09/18/08 - John Doe 1 moved to quash a subpoena the Swartzes issued to Google, Inc. seeking the identity of the anonymous blogger behind Stop Swartz.

11/3/08 - The Swartzes responded to the motion to quash.

3/13/09 - The court heard oral argument on the motion to quash and ruled that it would follow the standard set forth in Dendrite International v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. App. Div. 2001) and cited with approval in  Independent Newspapers, Inc. v. Brodie, 2009 WL 484956 (Md. Feb. 27, 2009). The court gave the Swartzes permission to amend their complaint and instructed John Doe 1 to file a motion to dismiss the complaint and/or to have the court perform First Amendment balancing under Dendrite. (A video of the hearing is available here.)

5/27/09 - Doe filed a motion to dismiss and to balance First Amendment rights.

08/13/09 - Swartz filed a response to the motion.

10/08/09 - The court granted in part and denied in part Doe's motion to dismiss and denied Doe's motion to quash.  The court also ruled that the issue was appropriate for interlocutory appeal.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Website

Subject Area: 

  • Elections and Politics
  • Defamation
  • Anonymity
  • Publication of Private Facts
  • Real Estate
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/9/2008, no new information. (AAB)

Docket information available on Westlaw