Thursday, April 8, 2010

UPDATE: Judge & Daughter Sue Plain Dealer for Outing Anonymous Posts

Bloggers AnonymousImage by kfranzman via Flickr
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold and her daughter Sydney Saffold have filed a $50 million suit against Advance Publications, owner of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, alleging the media defendant conspired to violate the privacy policy of its Web site,, by identifying anonymous comments by "lawmiss," a user name linked to the plaintiffs (see "TUOL" post 3/26/10).

The suit, which was filed in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, accuses the media defendant of engaging in a "vendetta" in its quest to identify the users of the registered "lawmiss" account after one anonymous posting questioned the mental health of Plain Dealer reporter James Ewinger's relative. Sydney Saffold has acknowledged writing some of the anonymous comments under the "lawmiss" moniker, but her mother the Judge has denied authoring comments.  The Plain Dealer claims a handful of "lawmiss"'s comments concern cases over which the judge  has presided.

A Plain Dealer affiliate, Advance Internet, created's privacy policy, which states in part: "We reserve the right to use the information we collect about your computer, which may at times be able to identify you, for any lawful business purpose." Plaintiffs' counsel concedes that Judge Saffold and her daughter share the "lawmiss" account, but claims the AOL Email address linked to the account was established by Judge Saffold's former husband for the entire family's use.

Apparently, the plaintiffs' ardor for preserving Internet blogger anonymity only goes so far; the Complaint seeks to unmask "John Does" who criticized the judge in online comments and has named the "Does" as defendants. "TUOL" does not believe that the old adage attributed to politicians that "no publicity is bad publicity," does not extend to jurists.

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