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View Full Version : Legal Memphis PD Chief sues to get identity of blogger critical of MPD


banyon
07-25-2008, 10:00 PM
Police director sues for critical bloggers' names
Site popular with citizens, officers
By Amos Maki (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/jul/22/police-director-sues-find-identity-blogger-critica/

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and the city of Memphis have filed a lawsuit to learn who operates a blog harshly critical of Godwin and his department.

The lawsuit asks AOL to produce all information related to the identity of an e-mail address linked to MPD Enforcer 2.0, a blog popular with police officers that has been extremely critical of police leadership at 201 Poplar.

"In what could be a landmark case of privacy and the 1st Amendment," the anonymous bloggers write on the site, "Godwin has illegally used his position and the City of Memphis as a ram to ruin the Constitution of the United States.



"Some members of the Enforcer 2.0 have contacted their attorneys and we are in the process of filing a lawsuit against Larry and the City of Memphis. What's wrong Larry? The truth hurt?"

It wasn't clear if the lawsuit is aimed at shutting down the site or if it's part of an effort to stop leaks that might affect investigations.

Many of the documents in the case, filed in Chancery Court on July 10, have been sealed by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong. Police officials would not discuss the action, citing pending litigation.

Whatever the reason, Internet and free-speech advocates said they had serious problems with the city's actions.

"You can complain about the government, and you should be able to do that without fear of retaliation or threatening actions on the part of the people in these positions," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based watchdog group. "I guess they've kind of annoyed them at some level, but you really don't want to see law enforcement or government resources spent in this way."

AOL has been ordered to turn over similar records in the past.

In 2001, Japanese company Nam Tai filed a complaint in California state court against unknown Web posters claiming they committed libel and violated the state's unfair business practices statute.

Nam Tai was able to obtain the e-mail address of one of the posters and then obtained a subpoena from a Virginia state court to AOL seeking the name behind the e-mail address.

AOL filed a motion to have the order quashed, but lost that bid in trial court and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said they will be watching the case closely and that anonymous speech is essential to the free flow of ideas in a democracy.

"We are quite interested in preserving the anonymity of the bloggers," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. "Anonymous speech has long been protected speech under the First Amendment."

The bloggers, who operate under the name of Dirk Diggler -- the name of the porn star in "Boogie Nights" -- say their site provides an important service to officers and citizens.

"This is another attempt at disrupting an outlet for officers to gather and complain about the administration," they said on the site.

"Further, this allows us unrestricted communication with the citizens of Memphis. The citizens should be made aware of the scandals that rock the administration and shudder the rocky foundation in which they operate today."

The bloggers also said city attorneys earlier this year wrote a threatening letter on city letterhead to a company that produced T-shirts for the bloggers.

Contact reporter Amos Maki at 529-2351.

banyon
07-25-2008, 10:01 PM
My hometown in action. Sometimes it manages to make Dodge City seem good.

Here's the blog, some interesting stuff:

http://mpdenforcer20.blogspot.com/

Mr. Kotter
07-25-2008, 10:04 PM
If slander/libel can be raised as an issue, this could be reasonable.... :shrug:

banyon
07-25-2008, 10:10 PM
If slander/libel can be raised as an issue, this could be reasonable.... :shrug:

When can't it be raised?

Mr. Kotter
07-25-2008, 10:30 PM
When can't it be raised?

I suspect you aren't willing to buy it, on any level though... :shrug:

:hmmm:

banyon
07-26-2008, 09:14 AM
I suspect you aren't willing to buy it, on any level though... :shrug:

:hmmm:

Government figures shouldn't be able to abuse this authority.

Not only is this a free speech issue, it is a "right to petition for redress of grievances" issue.

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 09:42 AM
Government figures shouldn't be able to abuse this authority.

Not only is this a free speech issue, it is a "right to petition for redress of grievances" issue.


Free speech does not include a right to libel or slander, anyone. Of course, you already know that....and choose to assume the worse in this case instead; instead of giving officials the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise.

I'm shocked... ;)

'Hamas' Jenkins
07-26-2008, 09:53 AM
Free speech does not include a right to libel or slander, anyone. Of course, you already know that....and choose to assume the worse in this case instead; instead of giving officials the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise.

I'm shocked... ;)

Actually it does.

Libel cases are almost impossible to prove against public figures unless there is "malicious intent" and "reckless disregard for the truth".

banyon
07-26-2008, 09:54 AM
Actually it does.

Libel cases are almost impossible to prove against public figures unless there is "malicious intent" and "reckless disregard for the truth".

Yep. Especially public, governmental figures.

Should George Bush be able to get my identity based on what I've posted in this forum?

Or should Obama be able to sue you Kotter?

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 09:58 AM
Actually it does.

Libel cases are almost impossible to prove against public figures unless there is "malicious intent" and "reckless disregard for the truth".

Poli Sci 101: Libel and slander are NOT protected as free speech...

It may be "difficult" to prove, but you are wrong on the letter of the law.

:)

Yep. Especially public, governmental figures.

Should George Bush be able to get my identity based on what I've posted in this forum?

Or should Obama be able to sue you Kotter?


I haven't seen anything you've said about Bush, that could be considered (legally speaking) libel; nor, as a tepid Obama supporter, have I stated anything remotely libelous about Obama.

On the other hand, in the article....we don't know that the same is true, do we? :shrug:

banyon
07-26-2008, 10:17 AM
Poli Sci 101: Libel and slander are NOT protected as free speech...

It may be "difficult" to prove, but you are wrong on the letter of the law.

:)




I haven't seen anything you've said about Bush, that could be considered (legally speaking) libel; nor, as a tepid Obama supporter, have I stated anything remotely libelous about Obama.

On the other hand, in the article....we don't know that the same is true, do we? :shrug:


Kotter, you're on the wrong side of this.

You understand that this is about the chilling effect on anyonymous speech that would be created if bloggers, or for that matter newspaper letters to the editor were forced to reveal identities.

Libel can always be alleged even if it can't be proven. That alone according to the lawsuit is enough to compel the disclosure of the blogger. That's un-American in my view.

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 10:27 AM
Kotter, you're on the wrong side of this.

You understand that this is about the chilling effect on anyonymous speech that would be created if bloggers, or for that matter newspaper letters to the editor were forced to reveal identities.

Libel can always be alleged even if it can't be proven. That alone according to the lawsuit is enough to compel the disclosure of the blogger. That's un-American in my view.

And your view is the knee-jerk ACLU lunatic fringe view....IMHO.

I think a balance can be struck here, between protecting the anyonymity and guarding against libel....as long as the offense does not meet the legal standard for libel. A fair-minded judge won't act unless that standard is met. If the standard is met, the blogger should face consequences.

Pretty simple really.

Adept Havelock
07-26-2008, 10:38 AM
Fine. Let the LEA and Law Enforcement officials in question conclusively prove they've been libeled, and then I don't have a problem with revealing the identity of the bloggers in question.

As the allegedly "libelous" material is publicly available, there is no need to reveal their identity until said allegations of libel are proved to be true.

Anything less would be a "knee-jerk wingnut authoritarian-fringe fishing expedition" to discern the identity of the bloggers, IMNSHO.


Libel can always be alleged even if it can't be proven. That alone according to the lawsuit is enough to compel the disclosure of the blogger. That's un-American in my view.

Hence my "knee-jerk wingnut authoritarian-fringe fishing expedition" comment.

There's no need to reveal the bloggers identity unless Libel can be proved. I seriously doubt that Larry Godwin is interested in proving he's been libeled. I suspect he just wants to know who is saying these things about him, possibly so he can retaliate. It wouldn't be the first time in America a Law Enforcement official attempted to use their position to silence criticism, and it won't be the last.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? We do. It's one of the cornerstones of a free society, IMNSHO.

However, if he can prove he's been libeled, I have no problem with then releasing the bloggers names.

ClevelandBronco
07-26-2008, 10:49 AM
I support the blogger's right to cowardice.

Adept Havelock
07-26-2008, 10:52 AM
I support the blogger's right to cowardice.

Then I suppose you would also consider an informant who turns states evidence but enters witness protection, or an anonymous whistleblower who calls attention to a crime within a company or the Government a coward? Benjamin Franklin, who wrote many critical articles under the pseudonym "Silence Dogood"? Or countless others who have followed in that tradition over the years?

Yep, evil, evil, bloggers. How dare they speak their minds!

I have seen the light! Anonymous speech is a threat to the Republic! It must be stopped!

Leave Police Director Larry Godwin Alone!!!!! :cuss:

'Hamas' Jenkins
07-26-2008, 10:59 AM
Poli Sci 101: Libel and slander are NOT protected as free speech...

It may be "difficult" to prove, but you are wrong on the letter of the law.

:)

Actually those quotes that I used are directly from journalism texts that cited legal cases that established what libel precedents were and were not in this country, vis a vis public figures.

(I started out college as a journalism major and had those quotes drilled into my head).


Precedent:

Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with "actual malice". In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth. For example, Ariel Sharon sued Time Magazine over allegations of his conduct relating to the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Although the jury concluded that the Time story included false allegations, they found that Time had not acted with "actual malice" and did not award any damages.

The concept of the "public figure" is broader than celebrities and politicians. A person can become an "involuntary public figure" as the result of publicity, even though that person did not want or invite the public attention. For example, people accused of high profile crimes may be unable to pursue actions for defamation even after their innocence is established, on the basis that the notoriety associated with the case and the accusations against them turned them into involuntary public figures.

A person can also become a "limited public figure" by engaging in actions which generate publicity within a narrow area of interest. For example, a woman named Terry Rakolta was offended by the Fox Television show, Married With Children, and wrote letters to the show's advertisers to try to get them to stop their support for the show. As a result of her actions, Ms. Rakolta became the target of jokes in a wide variety of settings. As these jokes remained within the confines of her public conduct, typically making fun of her as being prudish or censorious, they were protected by Ms. Rakolta's status as a "limited public figure".

ClevelandBronco
07-26-2008, 11:00 AM
Then I suppose you would also consider an informant who turns states evidence but enters witness protection, or an anonymous whistleblower who calls attention to a crime within a company or the Government a coward? Benjamin Franklin, who wrote many critical articles under the pseudonym "Silence Dogood"? Or countless others who have followed in that tradition over the years?

Yep, evil, evil, bloggers. How dare they speak their minds!

I have seen the light! Anonymous speech is a threat to the Republic! It must be stopped!

Leave Police Director Larry Godwin Alone!!!!! :cuss:

Yes. That's exactly what I said. Thanks for fleshing it out.

Adept Havelock
07-26-2008, 11:02 AM
Yes. That's exactly what I said. Thanks for fleshing it out.

I asked if you equated anonymity with cowardice in those other instances, as you are in the blogger's case.

Apparently you do. Thanks for the confirmation.

ClevelandBronco
07-26-2008, 11:33 AM
I asked if you equated anonymity with cowardice in those other instances, as you are in the blogger's case.

Apparently you do. Thanks for the confirmation.

It's not apparent. I do.

I mean it's obvious. You wrote it and all.

You're welcome.

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 11:35 AM
Actually those quotes that I used are directly from journalism texts that cited legal cases that established what libel precedents were and were not in this country, vis a vis public figures.

(I started out college as a journalism major and had those quotes drilled into my head)...

Journalistic misinterpretation, and wishful thinking aside....libel is NOT protected as free speech.

Yes, the "public figure" distinction makes libel more difficult to prove; but there have been many cases in which public figures have successfully sued for libel. Not an overwhelming number; but it's not exactly without precedent. Of course, you know that.

markk
07-26-2008, 11:51 AM
streissand effect in 3.2.1...

'Hamas' Jenkins
07-26-2008, 03:37 PM
Journalistic misinterpretation, and wishful thinking aside....libel is NOT protected as free speech.

Yes, the "public figure" distinction makes libel more difficult to prove; but there have been many cases in which public figures have successfully sued for libel. Not an overwhelming number; but it's not exactly without precedent. Of course, you know that.

Yeah, and here's the distinction:

You can say someone is incompetent at their job all you want, that they make poor decisions, etc.

Ask most journalists. Many have been sued for libel dozens of times, and have never been convicted.


If the people on this blog are once again showing actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth then there exists a possibility that they could be prosecuted successfully--but they don't even have to be accurate in all their assessments.

You are hitching your wagon to one of the most extreme of possibilities.

This isn't "Tom Cruise sacrifices virgin 3 year olds for lubricant while bottoming for goats and burrows".

***SPRAYER
07-26-2008, 09:03 PM
Leave Police Director Larry Godwin Alone!!!!! :cuss:

Stop stealing my material.

BucEyedPea
07-26-2008, 09:08 PM
Poli Sci 101: Libel and slander are NOT protected as free speech...

It may be "difficult" to prove, but you are wrong on the letter of the law.

:)




I haven't seen anything you've said about Bush, that could be considered (legally speaking) libel; nor, as a tepid Obama supporter, have I stated anything remotely libelous about Obama.

On the other hand, in the article....we don't know that the same is true, do we? :shrug:


Nope. Public figures aren't as protected. Tough to protect with our liberal free speech laws. This isn't England.

And maybe the blogger can claim journalism. I know posting pics of reg people on the net, without permission falls under publishing with the same restrictions meaning one needs a release to use the pic. But there are exceptions for journalism.

BucEyedPea
07-26-2008, 09:13 PM
but there have been many cases in which public figures have successfully sued for libel. Not an overwhelming number; but it's not exactly without precedent. Of course, you know that.

Who?

sportsman1
07-26-2008, 10:47 PM
They been talking bout this all week on the radio, surprised its made national attention. Really wish they wouldn't do this for publicities sake.

On the positive note I was informed Memphis Homicide Investigations solved rate is 72 %. One of nations tops.

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 11:16 PM
Who?

Most appropriate to THIS case:

L. Lin Wood Jr

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1024078954768



Also, after a very brief search:

Chef Ramsey

Kate Moss

Barbara Streisand

Johnny Carson

etc, etc, etc....

Adept Havelock
07-26-2008, 11:19 PM
Most appropriate to THIS case:

L. Lin Wood Jr

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1024078954768


An interesting excerpt from that article:

WIN CALLED RARE

David S. Hudson, general counsel for the Georgia Press Association, said Bowers' win is rare because "most public figure libel cases never get to a jury." An estimated 95 percent of libel cases brought against the media by public figures are disposed of in favor of the defendants on summary judgment because a showing of malice or reckless disregard for the truth is so difficult to meet, he said.

1 in 20? Heh.

That said, if the Police Director in question can conclusively prove Libel, then I'm fine with revealing the identity of the blogger.

However, revealing them merely because he's made the accusation is nothing more than a "knee-jerk wingnut authoritarian-fringe fishing expedition", IMNSHO. ;)

Mr. Kotter
07-26-2008, 11:28 PM
An interesting excerpt from that article:

WIN CALLED RARE

David S. Hudson, general counsel for the Georgia Press Association, said Bowers' win is rare because "most public figure libel cases never get to a jury." An estimated 95 percent of libel cases brought against the media by public figures are disposed of in favor of the defendants on summary judgment because a showing of malice or reckless disregard for the truth is so difficult to meet, he said.

1 in 20? Heh.

That said, if the Police Director in question can conclusively prove Libel, then I'm fine with revealing the identity of the blogger.

However, revealing them merely because he's made the accusation is nothing more than a "knee-jerk wingnut authoritarian-fringe fishing expedition", IMNSHO. ;)

So this could be the 1 in 20 cases, couldn't it???

Guess the Judge in the case....will inform us whether you or I are right, eh? :shrug:

If he's/she's a decent judge, he'll/she'll rule the way they ought to; which could be your way, or could be mine?

Time will tell... :shrug:

Adept Havelock
07-26-2008, 11:33 PM
So this could be the 1 in 20 cases, couldn't it???

Guess the Judge in the case....will inform us whether you or I are right, eh? :shrug:

If he's/she's a decent judge, he'll/she'll rule the way they ought to; which could be your way, or could be mine?

Time will tell... :shrug:

As long as he/she doesn't reveal the bloggers identity until the Police Director in question has proved he has been Libeled, either way is fine with me.

To reveal it without that being proved reduces the case to a mere fishing expedition, which I suppose might be the root of the matter.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? We do. As I said, it's a cornerstone of a free society. I think anonymity is an important, and even vital, protection of free citizens to carry out that role. As with any "whistleblower".

I can understand why those with sympathies towards Authoritarianism would see it otherwise, though. :p

Mr. Kotter
07-27-2008, 12:14 AM
As long as he/she doesn't reveal the bloggers identity until the Police Director in question has proved he has been Libeled, either way is fine with me.

To reveal it without that being proved reduces the case to a mere fishing expedition, which I suppose might be the root of the matter.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? We do. As I said, it's a cornerstone of a free society. I think anonymity is an important, and even vital, protection of free citizens to carry out that role. As with any "whistleblower".

I can understand why those with sympathies towards Authoritarianism would see it otherwise, though. :p


I'm guessin' they think they can meet the legal burden of libel. If so, the sucker[s] ought to fry....

OTOH, if they can't, then it's just another example of soap-boxin', I guess; which is silly. :shake:

Kinda like the Dems lame-ass "impeachment hearings" they've held in the last couple of weeks....


:rolleyes:

irishjayhawk
07-27-2008, 12:18 AM
I'm guessin' they think they can meet the legal burden of libel. If so, the sucker[s] ought to fry....

OTOH, if they can't, then it's just another example of soap-boxin', I guess; which is silly. :shake:

Kinda like the Dems lame-ass "impeachment hearings" they've held in the last couple of weeks....


:rolleyes:

Out of curiosity, what part of their postings would you deem "libel"?

Would you deem the concept of holding the department accountable "libel"? If they start using names?

Where do you draw the line?

Mr. Kotter
07-27-2008, 12:35 AM
Out of curiosity, what part of their postings would you deem "libel"?

Would you deem the concept of holding the department accountable "libel"? If they start using names?

Where do you draw the line?

Once you identify ACTS with PEOPLE/PERSONS ...if "unprovable"...you have crossed a line toward malice...and "wreckless disregard"....as Hamas concedes; you are now guilty of libel.

We'll see, whether or not, that standard was met in this case....eventually. :hmmm:

I suspect it may have been...

irishjayhawk
07-27-2008, 12:37 AM
Once you identify ACTS with PEOPLE/PERSONS ...if "unprovable"...you have crossed a line toward malice...and "wreckless disregard"....as Hamas concedes; you are now guilty of libel.

We'll see, whether or not, that standard was met in this case....eventually. :hmmm:

I suspect it may have been...

I thought it had to do with intent.

If the site legitimately thought x officer did x thing and called them on it, it wouldn't be malicious.

If they didn't legitimately think the officer did it and posted it anyway, it would seem to be malicious.

I don't see any reason to assume the latter over the former. Am I missing something?

Mr. Kotter
07-27-2008, 01:06 AM
I thought it had to do with intent.

If the site legitimately thought x officer did x thing and called them on it, it wouldn't be malicious.

If they didn't legitimately think the officer did it and posted it anyway, it would seem to be malicious.

I don't see any reason to assume the latter over the former. Am I missing something?

Key word: "legitimately"....a discretionary "decision"....I'm not nearly as gracious, as you seem to be????

Missing something? In this?

Guess the "judge" in the case will decide; as they should.....hopefully, they aren't a card carrying ACLU lunatic fringe nut job wacko type though....

;)

SBK
07-27-2008, 10:07 AM
Talk about pissing in the wind. Not the article, this thread.

banyon
07-27-2008, 01:04 PM
Key word: "legitimately"....a discretionary "decision"....I'm not nearly as gracious, as you seem to be????

Missing something? In this?

Guess the "judge" in the case will decide; as they should.....hopefully, they aren't a card carrying ACLU lunatic fringe nut job wacko type though....

;)

You seem to be putting the cart before the horse. The judge can't decide the case before the identity of the blogger is disclosed, especially before it's disclosed to the Police chief. This is particularly true when one of the elements of the offense is that the offender did it with knowledge that it was false. That's a fact that is unprovable without the identity of the blogger being known.

That's really the whole point of the chilling effect I've been talking about. The threat isn't really from the court action (which might issue a monetary penalty), it's from the government authority capable of being excercised by the police chief.

banyon
07-27-2008, 01:04 PM
Talk about pissing in the wind. Not the article, this thread.

Yeah, free speech, yawn.