Nov 022009
 November 2, 2009  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Online

Joan Whitely reports:

Litigation continues about the right to anonymously post disparaging comments online about a Las Vegas-based jury and prosecutor.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has filed an appeal of federal Judge Kent Dawson’s October decision to not examine the legality of subpoenas served last summer on the Las Vegas Review-Journal to identify who wrote the comments, which had appeared on the newspaper’s Web site.

The government “shouldn’t be permitted to go on a fishing expedition,” the ACLU’s Margaret McLetchie said today on behalf of four anonymous clients who had posted comments. “It took the bravery of the Review-Journal to let the four (John) Does know” that prosecutors were seeking personal information on them, she added. Rarely do subpoena recipients publicize such government efforts to extract information.

The civil rights organization is appealing to have a higher court declare that the two past subpoenas were unconstitutional, even though one was withdrawn and the other has already reaped a harvest of personal data for prosecutors to use in tracking the authors of two specific comments.

In October, Dawson dismissed the ACLU’s effort to intervene as “moot,” or no longer relevant. But the ACLU argues that prosecutors could still be forced by a court to return the data to the newspaper and cease any ongoing search to locate the authors.

Read more in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. More background can be found on the ACLU of Nevada’s web site.

Obviously, supports the paper’s effort to protect the privacy of anonymous commenters if they have engaged in protected speech.

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