Jun 202015
 
 June 20, 2015  Court, Online, U.S.

Paul Alan Levy writes:

In a decision issued yesterday in Hadley v. Subscriber Doe a/k/a Fuboy, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed lower court rulings that an anonymous commenter who responded to a local newspaper article by calling a local politician a “Sandusky waiting to be exposed,” making particular reference to the fact that he could see a local elementary school from his front door, had to be identified in response to a verified petition for disclosure under a state court rule (Rule 224).  The case stands as a useful reminder that there are legal limits to online accusations, even those found in the wild comment sections of some newspapers.

The court mentioned the Dendrite / Cahill approach to this issue only in passing in the course of describing the reasoning of the lower courts, which had pointed to an earlier case, Stone v. Paddock Publications and Maxon v. Ottawa Publishing Co., which had, in turn, said the First Amendment interests protected in other states using a constitutional analysis could be protected in Illinois because Illinois is a fact pleading state, requiring more detail than the traditional rule of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and because the Illinois Court Rule 224 requires a verified petition.  On this theory, these courts decided that once a verified petition has been found to pass a motion to dismiss standard, the protections are equivalent to the summary judgment standard articulated in Cahill.  The Illinois Supreme Court decided that the lower courts’ reasoning was correct.

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