Thursday, April 21, 2011

Texas High Court Ruling Lets Anonymous Bloggers Stay Anonymous

Building of the Supreme Court of TexasImage via WikipediaIn In re Does, __S.W.3d __ , 2011 WL 1447544 (Texas 2011), the Lone Star State's High Court quashed subpoenas issued to Google to unmask two anonymous bloggers facing claims of defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.

Pursuant to Rule 202.1 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, an individual may petition the court for an order authorizing a deposition: "(a) to perpetuate or obtain the person's own testimony or that of any other person for use in an anticipated suit or (b) to investigate a potential claim or suit." In this instance, the Court agreed with the anonymous bloggers who challenged the subpoenas on the basis that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate the need for pre-suit discovery by showing that justice in an anticipated suit would be delayed or denied if depositions were not allowed and that the benefits of permitting depositions to investigate possible claims would outweigh the burden or expense of conducting the discovery.

Unlike many of the cases on which "TUOL" has reported in which courts have quashed subpoenas seeking the identity of anonymous bloggers, the Texas Supreme Court did not look for support to the First Amendment argument that the plaintiff's right to pursue a judicial remedy is subordinate to blogger's free speech right to speak anonymously.

Kudos to Evan Brown, whose always informative Internet Cases blog zeroed in on this interesting decision.
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