Cisneros v. Sanchez

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Sanchez vs Cisneros

I thought I might clarify an important legal issue on this case. This case was in fact removed to the United State District Court on the grounds that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230(c))protected the Defendant from liability. The reason the Federal Judge remanded this case was not because plaintiff was making state law claims, but rather because the Defendant was being sued as the actual author of the defamation. Sanchez was not sued merely for hosting a website. The plaintiffs were able to prove Sanchez used multiple alias names on his site. Sanchez settled this case after the Defendants were able to trace the ip number for the defamatory posting to Sanchez personal laptop computer. This case therefore does not stand for the proposition that an internet service provider can be sued for simply providing a website. I agree that this would, as a matter of public policy, be a very bad idea. Hope this clarifies the Courts' ruling.
Mark Sossi

Ruling on Motion to Remand

Actually, the district court's ruling was a combination of the two rationales mentioned above (although one is arguably dicta).  It is black letter law that removal is not proper based on a federal defense.  But, as the district court explained, removal may be proper in rare cases where a federal law "completely preempts" a state law claim under the Franchise Tax, Avco, and Taylor line of Supreme Court cases.

In this case, the district court found that § 230 did not "completely preempt" Cisneros' state law defamation claim because the language in § 230(e)(3) leaves room for consistent state laws to operate and because Congress provided for no alternative federal claim to replace state law claims. The court therefore ruled that "[a]ny preemptive effect the CDA may have only rises to the level of a defense to certain causes of action, which is insufficient to support removal jurisdiction." See Cisneros v. Sanchez, 403 F. Supp. 2d 588, 593 (S.D. Tex. 2005). 

Confusingly, the court also indicated that § 230(c)(1) did not bar Cisneros' claims because the complaint alleged that Sanchez wrote the posts himself, see 590, 592 n.1, 593, though it is difficult to see why a federal court should be opining on the merits of a federal defense in the course of deciding whether or not it has subject-matter jurisdiction. The justification may be that the court wanted to buttress its argument that state law defamation claims—especially those consistent with § 230(c)(1) like this one—are not completely displaced by Section 230, as is true of certain ERISA and collective bargaining-related claims.