Judge Who Was Revealed As Anonymous Commenter Sues Newspaper For $50 Million

from the good-luck-there... dept

You may recall, a few weeks back, that the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed that a regular commenter on the site was actually a local judge (who had recently threatened to jail a Plain Dealer reporter for not giving up his source on a story). While revealing the real identity of an anonymous commenter seems pretty sleazy, we did wonder about the boundaries for a news organization. If it's newsworthy who an anonymous commenter is, then at what point should a publication reveal that info? A judge making snide comments about a case she's involved with may, in fact, be newsworthy, and part of an investigative report might reveal that info. So could a newspaper claim that revealing who made the comments was newsworthy?

Well, another judge may have to make that determination... because the judge who was "outed" has now sued the newspaper for $50 million claiming breach of contract, fraud, invasion of privacy, defamation and a few other charges. You can check out the full lawsuit (pdf -- via Eric Goldman).

What's interesting is that she uses multiple comments from articles and columns written in the Plain Dealer about this debate after she was revealed. I'm not sure that's compelling. The columnists and reporters may have their own opinions separate from that of the newspaper itself. However, the defamation claims may have a bit more heft to them, as she claims that many of the statements made by the Plain Dealer were false and not verified. Still, $50 million seems extreme no matter how you look at it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 5:30pm

    i would be lying if i said i didnt find this interesting, right masnick?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 5:36pm

    Re:

    I believe you lie every time you post anonymously instead of as TAM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    michaelk42 (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:02pm

    If only Kurt Greenbaum had picked a judge to mess with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:26pm

    At least when that other judge sued for ~$50 million there were damaged pants.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:27pm

    Re: Re:

    hi mike

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Hack a Loogie, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:36pm

    Spitting on justice

    Jail time threat to protect a source; suing for being exposed as a source. Govt using heavy handed tactics, free press reporting a possible story. (Now an on-going story I’m sure.)

    The sense of entitlement by government is reaching a riDICulous level.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    Pretty sleazy, indeed.

    :-P

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Spitting on justice

    Upon hearing the judge threatened jail if a reporter from said organization didn't turn over their source prior to this... well I will not say it makes it justified, but I mean, dang if it doesn't make me happy in a cruel way.

     

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  9.  
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    vyvyan, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 7:11pm

    Re: Spitting on justice

    Some judge she is, who has racial prejudice against white people, who 'questioned on mental state of a reporters relative', keeps the view that defense lawyer is a buffoon in a murder/homicide case, and at one time suggests a defendant to prostitute herself on bus stop rather than committing credit card fraud. WoW! Not only that she is a judge she has balls to cry foul!

     

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  10.  
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    HolaJohnny (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 7:23pm

    So lets get this straight

    A sitting judge (whether in their professional or personal life) made some comments that were connected to them and published as such is now suing. Now correct me if wrong but unless there was some kind of confidentiality agreement, said judge is fair game. Especially if this was a situation of being overheard. For instance say you work for AB Company and are known to be of said company. If you start making statements about things involving AB that are privy to any reporter within earshot outside of closed doors. Couldn't it be considered fair game? And this is a cover someones ass situation? And that is before the your in a elected position. Then I would think it is twofold as for scrutiny.

     

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  11.  
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    BearGriz72 (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 7:53pm

    Judicial Football

    I just hope the trial Judge does not punt the issues, and makes a well reasoned decision. I know it is a lotto ask of our current judicial system, but I am hoping. Our luck the newspaper will settle for an "undisclosed amount" and The privacy issues will go unresolved.

     

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  12.  
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    sticks n stones, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 8:32pm

    if your anonymous

    things should work both ways
    A) you can get those mouthy buggers
    B) you get civil ones

    C) you get mouthy people on you
    D) you get civil comments about you.

    BUT even if your outed later you did this as anonymous it was your choice and whats a judge involved in ANY case going to a site mouthing anyhting off in first place. THAT'S why this happened.

    SHE made seriously bad judgment regardless of what she said and if was anonymous HOW can people know anyhting prior to being outed? Before that point your just anyone so who cares what anyone says. THEY DON'T KNOW YOU and can't afterwards is entirely different. AND thinking cause i'm a judge i can get 50million

    then what she gets i got some anonymous jerks to take care of too.

     

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  13.  
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    Automcdonough (profile), Apr 8th, 2010 @ 8:33pm

    You missed some dirt.

    I live in Cleveland, and regularly read the Plain Dealer.
    First off, the PD is the best paper in town, perhaps all of OH.
    This blew up into a big deal because she (Saffold) is the Judge in the Anthony Sowell case, which is both a huge deal and very high profile. They found 11 bodies in the guys basement and surviving victims are all still coming foreward. Everyone in Cleveland is keeping an eye on this.

    This whole racket was brought about by Sowell's defense attorney, getting desperate to get this judge off the case. This would be his 3rd or 4th attempt. All of Sowell's victims were women, mostly black. Obviously a black female judge is not going to go light on him. Honestly I don't know what they expect to accomplish with all that evidence out there. For _any_ judge to not throw the book at him would be career suicide.

     

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  14.  
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    AR, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 8:43pm

    Oh Great

    $50 Million. Now the PD will have to put up a paywall. Guess I'll have to pay for delivery to read their propaganda. So much for saving trees. I can always use it to line bird cages afterwords.

     

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  15.  
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    gyffes, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 9:23pm

    "Here's your petard...

    start hoisting."

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 9:54pm

    I think a judge is a public employee. I don't think they have a legal right to anonymity, when they are making comments involved in their job.

    There are whistle blower laws but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

    This judge should lose.

    Revealing the judges identity is sleazy but the judge was being sleazy. From a "negative impact: on the public, the judges sleaze seems to be worse.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    AR, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

    Re: You missed some dirt.

    "First off, the PD is the best paper in town"

    Umm... just to clarify your point. The PD is pretty much the ONLY paper in town. At least since the Press folded 20 some years ago.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 11:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As if someone had to be Mike to know it was TAM. Sheesh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Any Mouse, Apr 8th, 2010 @ 11:46pm

    Re: Re: You missed some dirt.

    Just to clarify your point, there are 14 newspapers in Cleveland. 8 internet news sources, 3 magazines, and 6 broadcast news stations.

    (http://www.abyznewslinks.com/uniteohcl.htm)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:24am

    Did this judge have a problem with his suit at the drycleaners a few years ago?

     

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  21.  
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    SteveThurston, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:17am

    Re: So lets get this straight

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer has said that their "terms of service" (we should all read those!), says that they can use the emails/names for any reason they see fit. We'll see how that holds up in court--I think it comes down to the idea of an expected right to privacy.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    until mike said something nobody else did. amazing. now if mike would stop posting as an anonymous...

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    ar, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re: You missed some dirt.

    I checked out the site. Ill state it again. "The PD is pretty much the ONLY paper in town". Im not counting the little papers that only have a few hundred to a thousand readers. It looks like the other papers listed on the site are geared for niche audiences. Most of them I have never heard of and have no idea where to find them. The little papers usually are not daily and mostly reprint, retell, or comment on whats in the PD anyway (but you might get an alternative viewpoint). Thats if they try to claim to be a large area general newspaper. Counting them kind of reminds me of how the FCC claims we have competitive high speed internet when in actuality we really only have a cable monopoly.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nice failure of logic.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    enrolled agent classes, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Although the judge may really have a case here, this just goes to show us that these days, as long as anyone in power deems he is right, freedom of speech has become just a play on words. It doesn't really hold that much weight anymore. The press, they all seem to be scared of this and that which smells like a lawsuit. It's all about business now.

     

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  26.  
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    Wesha (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:59pm

    I wonder...

    ...has that judge ever heard of Streisand effect?...

     

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  27.  
    icon
    HolaJohnny (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:03pm

    Re: I wonder...

    You mean everything the judge sings sounds horrible too?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    James Kelley, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:52pm

    Re: Re:

    So, is your comment a lie?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    blusky, Apr 12th, 2010 @ 2:45am

    check out the full lawsuit

    Well, another judge may have to make that determination... because the judge who was "outed" has now sued the newspaper for $50 million claiming breach of contract, fraud, invasion of privacy, defamation and a few other charges. You can check out the full lawsuit (pdf -- via Eric Goldman).
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    Frank Simpson, Apr 12th, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    A Sitting Judge...

    ...making comments outside the courtroom about a pending case. Hmmm! Seems that a little judicisl disciplinary action may be required. By the bye, a judge is a public official. Think NYT v. Sullivan. But that is the least of here worries.

     

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