Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blog On, Anonymous

Here's a news item I'd overlooked that will please the many anonymous commenters on this blog: Mary Alice Robbins at Texas Lawyer's Ex Parte blog informs us that the 6th Texas Court of Appeals in Texarkana issued a ruling on Dec. 12 that:
protects the identity of an anonymous blogger. The appeals court ruled in In Re: Does 1-10 that an Internet provider does not have to reveal the blogger’s identity. As noted in the 6th Court’s opinion, written by Justice Jack Carter, Essent PRMC, the company that owns Paris Regional Medical Center, sued the blogger and nine of his anonymous commentators in June, alleging in its original petition that John Doe 1 had set up a blog that is defamatory, containing “scurrilous” comments about the hospital and its staff. Essent also filed an ex parte request for disclosure of information from a nonparty to the suit, SuddenLink Communications, Doe 1’s Internet provider. The trial court, which is not identified in the 6th Court’s opinion, ordered SuddenLink to disclose Doe 1’s name and address, basing its order on Essent’s argument on a provision in the Cable Communications Policy Act, 47 U.S.C. §551(c). Doe 1 filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the 6th Court, which found that “the federal statute is not a procedural vehicle for obtaining such a court order.” The 6th Court also held that the operator of the blog site has a First Amendment right to anonymity in the defamation suit, unless Essent provides proof that the blog postings caused it financial harm. Carter wrote for the 6th Court that “an author’s decision to remain anonymous . . . is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” Chief Justice Josh Morriss III and Justice Bailey C. Moseley joined in the decision.
The literally thousands of anonymous comments from employees at the Texas Youth Commission on Grits this year demonstrated to me once and for all why preserving anonymity is important. While it's a shame so many people feel too intimidated to use their real name when engaging in public debate, the fact that they do shows why anonymity is needed: It allows debates over topics where participants would otherwise refuse to engage for fear of reprisal.

Long live the anonymous blog commenter, and long live anonymous blogs!

11 comments:

"Chuy" said...

Scott, I also agree it is a shame that most of us have to post "Anonymous". But the reality is when you have leadership that punishes those that speak up and subjects these staff to wrongful terminations, suspensions, arbitrarily moves them to other facilities because they would not break policy or commit a wrongful act, we have to fall upon annonimity.

I for one would enjoy being allowed to speak up without fear of reprisal, not slanderous, or defaming type rhetoric but issues of child care, use of force, youth populations and staff ratio's, education, facility placements, and treatment needs. But once again the current leadership has shown that if you have an opinion that is contrary to their warehouse mentatlity and spray em first mentality, you will not be around long.

We are hoping for a new year when we are allowed to engage in these debates and have leadership that is competent enough that allows this to take place. And as always thanks for allowing us this blog to vent.

Anonymous said...

This is the very first time I've seen something from the Texas Court of Appeals that looks like good work!

Too bad the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals cannot also do good work.

Thanks for posting this. Retaliation and reprisal are a way of life in the workplace all over the US. TYC seems to be worse than most but we all benefit from the ability to contribute to the discussion anonymously!

Anonymous said...

I have nothing further to say. That took the fun out of being anonymous.

Let's go play somewhere else Demetria.

Gov. Rick Perry

rage judicata said...

10:38: I don't think this is the court of appeals that you think it is.

Either way, it is very surprising to see something good come out of Texarkana, they're usually right behind Beaumont and Eastland when it comes to getting it wrong.

I followed this lawsuit closely when it first came out. Can't remember where I read so much about it and I had forgotten all about it, but glad to see that it has survived at least through the intermediate courts.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing about being anonymous is that we would not have too if the Governor would place Administrators in place (TYC) that were actually competent.
How many more "Mistakes" does Pope and her entourage get before they are shown the door? How does it look that TYC has the only Executive Administrator(Pope) who can make a racist/sexist statement and the MSM just gives her a pass. What if an Hispanic or Caucasian made a comment publicly that the only reason TYC is failing is based upon a under achieving incompetent Black Lady who is trying to replace juvenile practices with that of TDCJ! Would this go by the wayside I believe enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

It sure makes me feel good that I can feel free to blog without being found out. The current leadership is a dictatorship! We've all heard the "my way or the highway" song and dance!

Anonymous said...

I understand the need for anonymity for TYC employees. I have tried to get my blog name but am not smart enough technically to get through the hoops, so I am posted as "anonymous." But I will sign my name at the end of the blog. I have an aversion to anonymity growing out of my experience. There was nothing anonymous about my opposition to the Tulia Drug Sting. But I got numerous anonymous responses, and none signed. And I was not in any position to retaliate against any one! When I occasionally do LTEs to the Amarillo Globe Republican, I still get anonymous responses, and an occasional signed letter or personal phone call of commendation. In general, I think anonymity is the refuge of a coward, but, as stated above, I understand the need for anonymity for state employees in a dictatorial regime.

Charles Kiker

Anonymous said...

This is great for Bexar County Probation Officers!!! We will get our blog moving again!!

Anonymous said...

9:37:

Just make sure nobody uses a county computer. Ask Cuck Rosenthal what can happen if you do...

Anonymous said...

Pope has gotten away with her racial/sexist remark and she may have been forgiven by the MSM, who failed to or wouldn't pick-up on it; but TYC employees will not forget. She has not earned our respect and never will. She has shamed us, rediculed us and humiliated us! What goes around will usually come around! We just need to be patient!

We hear her new boy toy, Timmmy Waterlily is attempting to pick up the pieces and trying to put her togther again, wonder how Elmer feels about it?? Knowing him and when he's had enough, he will leave the pieces at the capital steps for Elmer but is there enough glue in Texas so he can piece her together?? Highly doubt it!!!!

Happy New Year Folks, hang in there.

andi said...

I want to share a true story with you. I started a blog for the members of my union. We work for the Judicial Branch of the State of Connecticut. It was anonymous in order to protect the people who had something to say.

The members addressed lots of issues the most disturbing of which is that our Union President while in office was given a postion which was more than $10,000.00 a year raise and a transfer to a location very close to her home.

During that same period of time I received anonymous comments which were actually threatening so I started comment moderation-- not to limit speech but to keep out of the blog the statements like the dogs one person said they had to do me.

Not long afterwards I was informed by certified return receipt mail that if I did not shut down my blog that I would be charged and possibley kicked out of the union (being I had just been elected vice-president I made the blog private). I did report the harassment and threats I received and they called that free speech.

My point is good for the court in protecting those who need to be anonymous-- I feel I have living proof of the need for people to be able to have their ideas and thoughts protected, especially when the people who demand the protection only want it so they can attack silently.