May 132010
 
 May 13, 2010  Posted by  Court, Govt, Online

Richard Rainey reports:

Citing defamation and “suffered embarrassment” allegedly caused by online comments posted at www.NOLA.com, Jefferson Parish interim President Steve Theriot has filed a lawsuit requesting the identities behind 11 user accounts on the website.

The suit, which is seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages, alleges that anonymous comments left on the site through those accounts “were made with malice, and a blatant, intentional disregard for the truth, and with the intent that such statements damage plaintiffs.”

NOLA.com is the web affiliate of The Times-Picayune. The suit was filed against the commenters. It asks the website to reveal their identities, but it does not name NOLA.com or The Times-Picayune as a defendant. James O’Byrne, NOLA.com’s director of content, said, “We have received a subpoena and we will discuss it with our attorneys. We have no comment at this time.”

Read more on Nola.com

Note that it is not just some of Nola.com’s commenters who are being sued. Commenters on slabbed.wordpress.com are also included in the defamation suit, although the complaint does not cite specific quotes from that blog.

Over on The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh makes short shrift of the complaint:

…..   It’s not clear to me from the story exactly what the comments about the co-plaintiff, Steve Theriot (Interim President of the Parish), said, and whether they would reasonably be understood as making false statements of fact or just expressing derogatory opinions. But the one thing that is clear, from the landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision, is that “prosecutions for libel on government” (which in context clearly refers to civil lawsuits for libel as well) have no “place in the American system of jurisprudence.”

Seems to me like an anti-SLAPP special motion to strike should easily prevail, at least against the Parish, and thus require the Parish to pay the defendants’ costs and attorney fees.

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