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Huckleberries Online

Posts tagged: subpoena

Editor: Legal Action Vital For SR

The Spokesman-Review has engaged in some important and costly legal challenges in recent months that produced mixed results, but our watchdog efforts remain an integral component of the newsroom’s commitment to our audience and the community. In one case, we lost in the effort to protect an anonymous commenter on one of our most popular online blogs, while in another case we succeeded in persuading a federal judge to unseal transcripts of the secretive query of jurors who convicted former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. in connection with his deadly confrontation with Otto Zehm. Meanwhile, our legal counsel is helping us push for release of disciplinary records involving a few public school teachers in the region. The case involving the anonymous comments posted on Huckleberries Online, a blog written, compiled and maintained by veteran Idaho journalist Dave Oliveria, was clearly the most complicated of the recent challenges/SR Editor Gary Graham. More here. (SR photo of Editor Gary Graham)

Thoughts?

Vestal: Why Defend Right To Insult?

A judge has ordered this newspaper to turn over information about a person who made a potentially libelous comment under an assumed name on the website. This, of course, will have a chilling effect on free speech. A chilling effect is what we in the free-speech business always warn about. We do not want to chill speech; we want it hot and loose. This speech, though? This anonymous lobbing of insults? Chill it. Give it frostbite, even. It feels traitorous to say so. My training and background and beliefs lead me to certain articles of faith: More speech is always better; protecting the identity of sources is noble; anonymous information is often an important tool for getting at the truth; journalistic organizations must stand against government efforts to usurp newsgathering for their purposes. But what has emerged in the era of online commenting is, about three-quarters of the time, a sewer of stupidity and insults and shallowness/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.

Question: Do you agree with SR columnist Shawn Vestal that Internet speech should be chilled, in light of Judge John Luster's ruling last week that the SR must reveal source of questionable comment?

Roundup: SR Subpoena Date Nears

Reminder: Judge John Luster (Courtroom #1) will hear arguments on the SR motion to quash Tina Jacobson's subpoena beginning at 9 a.m. Friday at the Kootenai County courthouse.

First District Judge John Luster will hear The Spokesman-Review's motion to quash a subpoena filed by former Kootenai County GOP CC chairman Tina Jacobson, seeking the names of three anonymous HucksOnline commenters. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. We don't know how long the hearing will last, or whether Judge Luster will hand down a decision Friday. He may take the matter under advisement. In preparation for Friday morning's event, I'm posting links to the key stories about Jacobson's lawsuit against John/Jane Doe, her subpoena and other important stories along the way:

SR Replies To Jacobson Brief

Earlier, I posted the response by Tina Jacobson's lawyers to the Spokesman-Review's motion to quash Jacobson's subpoena seeking identities for three anonymous HucksOnline commenters: almostinnocentbystander, Phaedrus & OutOfStateTater. The memorandum was issued last week while I was on vacation. The SR has responded to the memorandum today, stating that “there is no doubt that the First Amendment protects the right to speak anonymously” and providing case law. In their reply for the SR, Duane Swinton and Joel Hazel of Witherspoon Kelley state in part: “Fortunately the bluster” of the plaintiff in her motion to quash the supoena “does not override nor defeat the significant constitutional issues raised by the Spokesman-Review's Motion to Quash the subpoena served on it.” Read reply for SR attorneys here.

Question: I wonder if the commenters on the other local blogs, despite their possible contempt for HucksOnline, understand how important our defense against Tina Jacobson is for them?

Jacobson Responds To Quash Motion

Attorneys for former Kootenai County GOP CC Chairwoman Tina Jacobson, has filed the following memorandum to the motion to quash subpoena filed against the Spokesman-Review in her attempt to gain the identity of three anonymous HucksOnline posters. The memorandum contends that the newspaper has no legal basis to file motion to quash and asks that Judge John Luster deny the motion, reading in part: “The service provider claims federal statutory immunity for liable appearing on its blog but is not a party to the action. However, the provider purports to stand in the shoes of the defamer and is applying legal doctrines inapplicable to an internet provider to shield the wrongdoer. The subject matter of the subpoen does not deal with the information in the hands of the newspaper or involved a newspaper's attendant rights under the law.” You can read the memorandum by Winston & Cashatt attorney C. Matthew Andersen here.

  • The Spokesman-Review has filed a response to the above motion. HucksOnline will publish that response when it becomes available (probably today).
  • Judge Luster will hear arguments beginning at 9 a.m. Friday.

Thoughts?

Notice: Court hearing concerning anonymous posters

The lawyer for Tina Jacobson has requested that the blog post notice of an upcoming court hearing:

Dear Mr. Swinton:

I request that your client post on its HuckleberriesOnline website the following notice related to the pending Spokesman-Review motion to quash the Subpoena Duces Tecum.  If this request occasions any difficulty please advise.  Thank you in advance for the professional courtesy in accommodating this notice to the effected bloggers. (Full notice here)

C. Matthew Andersen
Attorney for Tina Jacobson

CdA Press: Free To Criticize

(Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chairwoman Tina) Jacobson is demanding the identity of one or more people she believes have accused her of a crime. Of particular displeasure to the county's Republican Party leader was this question, posed on Dave Oliveria's “Huckleberries” blog after Oliveria posted a photo that included Jacobson on a stage with other Republicans: “Is that the missing $10,000 in Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina's blouse??? Let's not try to find out.” The Spokesman-Review's attorneys argue that the comment doesn't constitute a factual assertion that Jacobson stole any money - or even that any money had gone missing. But even if it did, our question is this: How damaging is an anonymous opinion stated on a blog that makes no claim to the information being accurate or even substantially true? If someone had spray-painted the same thing on a downtown wall, would Jacobson sue the building's owner? Because what's happened here is very much like graffiti; the comment may be eye-catching but it lacks credibility because nobody is owning up to it/Coeur d'Alene Press Editorial Board. More here.

Thoughts?

SR Subpoena Motions Set June 1

A hearing on the motion to quash a subpoena filed by Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chairwoman Tina Jacobson against the Spokesman-Review is scheduled before 1st District Judge John Luster at 9 a.m. Friday, June 1. Jacobson filed the subpoena seeking to gain the identity of three anonymous commenters who posted under a thread about then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's visit to Coeur d'Alene on Feb. 14: almostinnocentbystander, Phaedrus and Out of Stater Tater. Jacobson has filed suit against John/Jane Doe, alleging that she was defamed by the comments made by almostinnocentbystander. You can read the thread under the photo (with the comments removed here). Point No. 10 in the affidavit filed on behalf of the paper and myself by Duane Swinton and Joel Hazel of Witherspoon Kelley reads: “In one blog posting, a poster identified as 'almostinnocentbystander” stated somewhat fancifully, 'Is that the missing $10,000 in Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina's blouse??? Let's not try to find out.' I (DFO) did not view this posting as a factual assertion that Tina Jacobson had stolen $10,000. Two subsequent postings, one by 'Phaedrus' and one by 'OutofStateTater,' addressed almost innocent bystander's comment.” You can read the affidavit here. And Exhibits A & B here (including original comments thread. You can read support information prepared by Witherspoon Kelley here.

Thoughts?

Seattle Weekly Follows Jacobson Suit

Looks like the lawsuit filed by Kootenai County GOP CC Chairwoman Tina Jacobson has grown legs. The Seattle Weekly reports: “This is a story that is embarrassing to a Republican Party chair in Idaho, and you have her to thank for it. She apparently feels someone has accused her of a crime - taking $10,000 and hiding it on “her person.” This was said in a Spokane newspaper column called Huckleberries Online - not by the columnist, but by an anonymous commenter. The claim was later removed, and might have since been forgotten. But Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chair Tina Jacobson has now filed a lawsuit to force the newspaper to identity the commenter, turning a little story into a bigger one. As a commenter says now that the bigger story has developed, 'Cool… this should be fun to watch…'/Rick Anderson, Seattle Weekly. More here.

DFO: Papers all over the state and USA Today also have reported on this lawsuit & the subpoena filed on behalf of Jacobson in an attempt to find the identity of three Huckleberries Online commenters.

Thoughts?

SR To File Motion To Quash Subpoena

This week, The Spokesman-Review, through attorney Duane Swinton of Witherspoon-Kelley, will file a motion to quash the subpoena filed against the newspaper on behalf of Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chairwoman Tina Jacobson (pictured). Jacobson is attempting to gain the identity of 3 anonymous individuals who posted on a Feb. 14 comments thread: Almost Innocent Bystander, Phaedrus and Out of Stater Tater. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit against “John and/or Jane Doe” alleging Almost Innocent Bystander libeled her in a post on Huckleberries Online. According to the lawsuit filed by Jacobson's attorney, Winston & Cashatt, “The entry as published via the internet stated there was $10,000 missing from the Republican Central Committee funds and that the missing funds were hidden on the person of Mrs. Jacobson.” The lawsuit denounces both claims as false. Jacobson's attorneys have asked that the identities of the three named posters and other documentation be made available to Winston & Cashatt, 250 Northwest Boulevard/CdA, by 10 o'clock Friday morning.

GOP Chairwoman Subpoenas SR

Attorneys on behalf of Kootenai County GOP Chairwoman Tina Jacobson have subpoenaed the Spokesman-Review to produce documents establishing the identities of three anonymous Huckleberries Online bloggers: “almostinnocentbystander,” “Phaedrus” and “OutofStatertater.” The three commented in a thread in which “almostinnocentbystander” made a comment about Jacobson at the rally for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Coeur d'Alene Feb. 14. Story here. Jacobson's law firm of Winston & Cashatt has asked the SR to produce these documents and others to its Coeur d'Alene office by 10 a.m. Friday, May 4. You can read the subpoena here.

GOP Leader Sues Anonymous Poster

Item: GOP leader sues anonymous commenter/Coeur d'Alene Press; And: Original HucksOnline post here

More Info: An anonymous commenter on a local blog is the target of a lawsuit filed Monday by Tina Jacobson, chair of the Kootenai County Republican Party. The suit claims a commenter using the pseudonym “almostinnocentbystander” posted libelous, defamatory statements about Jacobson in February on the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries blog. It also alleges that several other bloggers made similar statements.

DFO: Three days after the post was made and deleted, “almostinnocentbystander” issued an apology and statement that was posted on Huckleberries Online. Click here. You can read Tina Jacobson's lawsuit here.

Thoughts?

GOP Chair Sues Commenter

Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chairman Tina Jacobson has filed a lawsuit against a Huckleberries Online commenter who goes by the pseudonym “almostinnocentbystander.” Jacobson's lawsuit names as defendant “John Doe” and/or “Jane Doe.” The Spokesman-Review is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Jacobson is claiming that the anonymous commenter “committed a tort of libel by publishing, via the internet, a malicious defamation” on Huckleberries Online about Jacobson during the visit of GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum to Coeur d'Alene in mid-February. According to the lawsuit, “almostinnocentbystander,” had commented at Huckleberries Online that “there was $10,000 missing from the Republican Central Committee funds and that the missing funds were hidden on the person of Mrs. Jacobson.” The suit goes on to say that Huckleberries blogger D.F. Oliveria removed the comment. The complaint adds that Oliveria and the Spokesman-Review refused to provide the identity of the commenter to Jacobson. The lawsuit seeks damages  from the anonymous poster for alleged libel and an injunction to prevent future acts of libel.  It is expected that, as part of the litigation, the plaintiff will seek to learn the identity of the anonymous poster. You can read the complaint for yourself here.

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About this blog

D.F. Oliveria is a columnist and blogger for The Spokesman-Review. Print Huckleberries is a past winner of the Herb Caen Memorial Column contest by the National Association of Newspaper Columnists. The Readership Institute of Northwestern University cited this blog as a good example of online community journalism.

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