Commenting anonymously can go wrong – even for the judge
The Cleveland Plain Dealer agreed to reveal the identity of one of its frequent anonymous commenters. The anonymous commenter was a judge who posted under the name “lawmiss” and commented on some of the cases in her court. Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold reacted by suing the newspaper for $50 million.
I will leave the ethics of the judge commenting on her own cases to the legal ethicists, but the suit raises some interesting points. The suit, filed April 7, 2010, can be seen here.
You can read the ABA Journal article here. The judge’s comments included:
“All of these criminals committing crimes against women must stop. None of them should get out of prison, EVER.”
“Rufus Sims (lawyer of Sowell and of a bus driver convicted of vehicular homicide) did a disservice to his client. If only he could shut his Amos and Andy style mouth … This was not a tough case, folks. She should’ve hired a lawyer with the experience to truly handle her needs. Amos and Andy, shuffling around, did not do it.”
The newspaper allegedly voluntarily gave up the judge’s identity after relations between the judge and some of the reporters cooled.
We may also provide access to our database in order to cooperate with official investigations or legal proceedings, including, for example, in response to subpoenas, search warrants, court orders, or other legal process.
In addition, 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, including without limitation to help diagnose problems with our servers, to gather broad demographic information, and to otherwise administer our Website.While your personally identifying information is protected as outlined above, we reserve the right to use, transfer, sell, and share aggregated, anonymous data about our users as a group for any business purpose, such as analyzing usage trends and seeking compatible advertisers and partners.The limitations of liability and disclaimer of warranties are all contained in the site’s User Agreement.The judge claims some of the posts were done by her daughter. An interesting issue is whether that means the daughter can be dragged into the case for violating the site’s Usage Agreement which prohibits accessing the site through someone else’s login. Will there be a tortured Lori Drew Computer Fraud and Abuse Act claim against the daughter for violating the site’s terms?
A Quick Personal Aside: I have been absent for awhile because of back-to-back jury trials. In my business litigation practice, I have a jury trial about once every year and a half. Over the last month, I’ve had two back-to-back with several more scheduled over the next six months. The first went to verdict and the other settled as we were picking the jury. People have asked how the economy has impacted our practice and it seems to me that parties are less willing to settle, but more willing to pay more for attorneys to take cases to trial.