Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Official & LA Parish Seek ID of Website's Anonymous Bloggers

In Parish of Jefferson & Steve Theriot v. John Does 1-100 (24th Jud. Dist. Case No. 687191), the interim president of a La. political subdivision has sued for defamation and subpoenaed, the Web affiliate of the New Orleans Times-Picayune daily newspaper, for the identities of 11 anonymous bloggers who have commented on news stories about Theriot and a scandal that has wracked the parish.  Neither the newspaper nor the Website are parties to the suit.

According to items on the NOLA site and the blog,, the lawsuit, which the government entity is funding, seeks, by subpoena, to identify pseudonymous commenters on the NOLA Website, including watchout41, jpigpen4, fauxu, taxesfortim, riverbirch, and viewfromhell, the latter who allegedly labeled Theriot in a comment "another Jefferson Parish politician thug mobster."

The plaintiffs' petition includes a count for defamation alleging that the anonymous posters' comments have harmed plaintiffs' reputation and standing in the community.  The Times-Picayune has not commented other than to confirm that its attorneys are reviewing the subpoena.

"TUOL" 's crack research team is unfamiliar with Louisiana law (though has read All the King's Men and seen the movie with Broderick Crawford), but is puzzled because government entities cannot be libeled. Not sure how Jefferson Parish's reputation and standing can be harmed in the community, when Jefferson Parish is the community.  Theriot can sue for libel, but as a public official, has a high bar of proof over which to hurdle.

The case would seem to be a candidate for an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) claim.

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1 comment:

  1. A similar scenario evolved last month in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in which a Judge ordered a local weekly newspaper, "The Coast", and Google, to identify pseudonymous posters who commented on articles about racism in the Halifax Fire Department. The court order was sought by the Chief and Deputy Fire Chief who allege defamation by the posters.

    I strongly disagree with the Judge's order, and find it inexplicable that neither party opposed the application for disclosure.

    The Toronto "Globe and Mail" did a piece on it, and the 220 comments which follow it are interesting and varied.

    We Canadians need to be far more aggressive in protecting our free speech.