Judge Orders Woman To Delete Her Facebook Page For Typing LOL About Her DUI

from the extreme-measures dept

This one is from a week ago, and a bunch of you submitted it (thoughTim K gets the hat tip for being first), but just getting around to it now. Apparently, a woman named Paula Asher, who hit a car while driving under the influence, was ordered by the judge in the case to delete her Facebook account, after she typed the following status message on her Facebook page:

“My dumb bass got a DUI and I hit a car…LOL”

The judge seemed to take the “LOL” statement literally — that she was “laughing out loud” at her drunk driving accident — and ordered her to delete her Facebook account. She then ignored that order, leading to a contempt of court charge and jail time. I have no problem with her facing punishment for the drunk driving, but being told to delete her Facebook page seems extreme on a variety of levels. First, the literal interpretation of “LOL” is a bit unfair, considering in context how many people use the term today. Rather than literally meaning that they’re “laughing out loud,” it’s often an expression of exasperation at a situation people find themselves in. Many people seem to use it more as punctuation to a statement they make, rather than as an accurate description of what they’re doing.

But, even beyond that, it seems wrong to order the deletion of an entire Facebook account over one off-hand statement like that. Facebook had nothing to do with this woman’s drunk driving — which, again, she should be punished for. I could even see reason to up the level of punishment for potentially showing a lack of remorse or recognition of the seriousness of her crime. But forcing someone to delete their entire Facebook account, when it’s a key way that many people communicate today, seems extreme. Facebook didn’t make Asher drive drunk. Nor did it make her not show remorse afterward. Forcing her to shut it down completely seems to go beyond reasonable.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: facebook

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Judge Orders Woman To Delete Her Facebook Page For Typing LOL About Her DUI”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Duke (profile) says:

I’m no expert, but isn’t there some sort of US legal principle about the Government, and it not abridging free speech? Wouldn’t that cover someone making a derisive comment about a criminal conviction?

Now personally I’m all for encouraging respect for criminal justice systems (and using Contempt of Court if needed), but somehow I don’t think this is a way of achieving that. If someone is laughing off a criminal conviction, that suggests she isn’t taking it seriously enough (and perhaps reflects a problem with sentencing), but shutting down a Facebook page seems more likely to decrease respect for the judicial system than improving it. It’s almost as if the judge had no idea what he was talking about, but I’m sure you’d never have someone in power who was that much of a Luddite

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In theory the judicial system should be as beholden by the constitution as the rest of the government, but since we have judicial indepedence they’re allowed to basically do or say whatever they want and it’s treated as the absolute truth unless contradicted by another judge higher. You might be able to sue a judge for violating your First Amendment rights, but the case will just end up before another judge and they’re sure as hell not going to rule in your favor because it’ll create precedent for that judge, and the others, to be more limited in what they can do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Walker v City of Birmingham

From the ABC New story:

When Asher initially appeared in court after the July 20 accident, the judge told her to delete her Facebook account, Kittinger said. Asher did not take it seriously, and was charged with contempt of court when the judge learned her Facebook page was still active.

?Apparently it was a condition, and they said she did not get it off, and so they charged her with contempt of court,? Kittinger told ABC News.

Compare with Mr Justice Stewart’s opinion in Walker v City of Birmingham (1967)

These precedents clearly put the petitioners on notice that they could not bypass orderly judicial review of the injunction before disobeying it. Any claim that they were entrapped or misled is wholly unfounded, a conclusion confirmed by evidence in the record showing that when the petitioners deliberately violated the injunction they expected to go to jail.

The rule of law that Alabama followed in this case reflects a belief that in the fair administration of justice no man can be judge in his own case, however exalted his station, however righteous his motives, and irrespective of his race, color, politics, or religion. This Court cannot hold that the petitioners were constitutionally free to ignore all the procedures of the law and carry their battle to the streets. One may sympathize with the petitioners’ impatient commitment to their cause. But respect for judicial process is a small price to pay for the civilizing hand of law, which alone can give abiding meaning to constitutional freedom.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Walker v City of Birmingham

Shhh. Average Joe only wants to talk about how lame and stupid Mike is. He doesn’t care that Mike simply stated an opinion that the judge “seems to go beyond reasonable”. But then again, Average Joe has zero respect for opinions and holds the law to be sacrosanct. “Anything to discredit Mike!” is the AJ motto.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Walker v City of Birmingham

Being ordered to delete a facebook account because of one sentence said through it is like an order not to use a telephone or own a computer or post noticed on a public bulletin board.

If the state has a compelling interest, for example someone who uses a telephone to phone in fake bomb threats or a computer to hack, a court could order someone not to use such a thing and have it stick.

But to muzzle someone for discussing their own case, with no judicial seal, and order them to destroy their means of communication in its entirety goes so far beyond reasonable it’s astounding.

Yes the woman should have appealed in court rather than ignore the order, but at some point, an illegal order must become so absurd that nobody who belongs outside a secure mental ward would even think to obey it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Walker v City of Birmingham

What do you mean by “respect for our government”? Why kind of respect do you think he lacks? Does respecting the government mean that we allow them violate our rights? Does it mean that we never criticize anything they do? Does it mean to respect them the way a slave respects a master, with complete obedience and fear? I suppose we should just let the government govern, and shut our peasant mouths.

btr1701 says:

Re: Re: Walker v City of Birmingham

> He doesn’t care that the woman did wrong in not obeying
> the court order.

If the court’s order is wrong, then it’s not wrong to disobey it.

If the judge had ordered her to renounce her religion, would it be wrong to disobey it?

> But then again, clearly Mike has zero respect for our government.

Sure he does. He just doesn’t have respect for power-tripping out of control judges.

I have to wonder, if she’d deleted her account, but then opened up a new one, would that have been contempt as well? Is she banned from using one of the most ubiquitous communication devices in modern society forever? Considering that she hadn’t even been convicted of anything at the point she was ordered to delete her account, one has to ask, does this judge believe he has unlimited power over everyone who has a case before him; that the fact that a person has been charged with a crime in his court gives him the power to order them to do anything he likes?

average_joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Walker v City of Birmingham

If the court’s order is wrong, then it’s not wrong to disobey it.

This is basic stuff:

We begin with the well-established principle in proceedings for criminal contempt that an injunction duly issuing out of a court having subject matter and personal jurisdiction must be obeyed, irrespective of the ultimate validity of the order. Invalidity is no defense to criminal contempt. United States v. United Mine Workers, 1947, 330 U.S. 258, 67 S. Ct. 677, 91 L. Ed. 884; Howat v. State of Kansas, 1922, 258 U.S. 181, 42 S. Ct. 277, 66 L. Ed. 550; Gompers v. Bucks Stove and Range Co., 1911, 221 U.S. 418, 31 S. Ct. 492, 55 L. Ed. 797; Walker v. City of Birmingham, 1967, 388 U.S. 307, 87 S. Ct. 1824, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1210. “People simply cannot have the luxury of knowing that they have a right to contest the correctness of the judge’s order in deciding whether to wilfully disobey it. * * * Court orders have to be obeyed until they are reversed or set aside in an orderly fashion.” Southern Railway Co. v. Lanham, 5 Cir., 1969, 408 F.2d 348, 350 (Brown, C. J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc).

United States v. Dickinson, 465 F.2d 496, 509 (5th Cir. La. 1972).

An injunction duly issuing out of a court of general jurisdiction with equity powers upon pleadings properly invoking its action, and served, upon persons made parties therein and within the jurisdiction, must be obeyed by them however erroneous the action of the [190] court may be, even if the error be in the assumption of the validity of a seeming but void law going to the merits of the case. It is for the court of first instance to determine the question of the validity of the law, and until its decision is reversed for error by orderly review, either by itself or by a higher court, its orders based on its decision are to be respected, and disobedience of them is contempt of its lawful authority, to be punished. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 450; Toy Toy v. Hopkins, 212 U.S. 542, 548. See also United States v. Shipp, 203 U.S. 563, 57 3.

Howat v. Kansas, 258 U.S. 181, 189-190 (U.S. 1922).

Are you sure you’re a lawyer?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Walker v City of Birmingham

Dude, you are a moron. First of all Mike made it clear that the woman should be punished for driving drunk and even for not showing remorse (something that the Facebook post could be used as evidence) however there is a clear First Amendment issue here. Facebook today is akin to a collection of photo albums and other personal highlights. What the judge told her is similar to telling any1 to burn all their photo albums because one of them had a pic of you “worshiping” some cannabis plant because you were condemned for smoking weed. Makes no sense, it is overaggressive and it hurts your constitutional rights.

Not that I expect you to actually see the issues behind this decision and her right to ignore it because you are a complete moron. But it’s worth to highlight how much of a moron you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Walker v City of Birmingham

…however there is a clear First Amendment issue here.

Did you read Walker v City of Birmingham? I provided a link to that case, in my initial post, above. Or was that Supreme Court case just ?tl; dr? for you?

AJ, in his response to btr1701, quoted from the Fifth Circuit case of United States v Dickinson. He did not provide a hypertext link ?perhaps he was being intentionally rude with that discourtesy.

Until now, I have not bothered to provide a courtesy link to Dickinson for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons, I did not want to distract people’s attention from Walker v City of Birmingham. It is a famous case, and you should be exposed to it.

Further, although it is most irrelevant to this discussion, along with Walker, you should probably also read Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ?Letter From A Birmingham Jail?. Not only is Dr King’s letter literature with which everyone American should have some passing familiarity, but it provides a little context in understanding the famous case of Walker v City of Birmingham.

average_joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Walker v City of Birmingham

AJ, in his response to btr1701, quoted from the Fifth Circuit case of United States v Dickinson. He did not provide a hypertext link ?perhaps he was being intentionally rude with that discourtesy.

Huh? He’s a lawyer. I quoted the exact text and then gave him the pincite so he could check it out my claim for himself. I’m pretty sure a lawyer can find a Fifth Circuit opinion. To say that I was being “intentionally rude” because I did not provide a link is laughable. If my making a claim and backing it up with the exact text and cite of the text strikes you as “intentionally rude,” I guess you think that 99.99999999999999% of people on the internet are “intentionally rude” who make claims but offer no text or cite to back them up.

You must REALLY think btr1701 is “intentionally rude” for making his silly claim that “If the court’s order is wrong, then it’s not wrong to disobey it.” He provided no basis whatsoever for the claim. Funny how you don’t call him “intentionally rude,” but then you’re giving me shit. It’s almost like YOU’RE being “intentionally rude” to me with this. Give me a break. How many people even bother to cite text to back up their arguments?

RMH (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Walker v City of Birmingham

Well said average_joe.

Comply with the court order or appeal it.
(oh he really meant that? – is not a defense)

Separately, on the 1st amendment front – love the t-shirt metaphor someone posted.

Did anyone stop to think perhaps the judge meant “delete the post” (IMO, reasonable) rather than “delete the account”?

As someone who has helped Federal judges with technology (as well as plenty of friends over 40), I think folks need to consider the background of the judge before issuing a 1st Amendment rally cry.

Judges have broad discretion over sentencing in most states. IMO, requiring the removal of the *post* was reasonable. Either way – it was a court ruling and there is a process for contesting the ruling.

average_joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Walker v City of Birmingham

I’ve read different accounts of what transpired. Some say the judge ordered the deletion of the entire account (which I doubt), and some say the judge said delete the offensive post (which I believe and support). Either way, we don’t each get to decide which part of a judge’s orders we feel like obeying. She drove drunk and then she disobeyed a direct order from a judge. Two days in jail seems like she got off easy…

MIlton Freewater says:

This is why we have the ACLU

… and I look forward to watching them tear this up.

The judge may impose a harsher sentence on her because she publicly expresses lack of remorse … that’s fair.

Does she has a First Amendment right to express a lack of remorse outside the courtroom? Dunno. I’m not a lawyer.

But even if you think she doesn’t, she has a First Amendment right to all the posts she made on Facebook that were NOT “My dumb bass got a DUI and I hit a car…LOL”

A judge can punish you for wearing an offensive T-shirt in a courtroom … but he may not order you to throw away all your T-shirts because you wore one to his court that was offensive.

Jeffrey Herr says:

On the other hand...

I don’t buy the idea that LOL is an expression of frustration. It means what it says: “I find this comment or situation funny… Laughable, in fact”.

She shouldn’t lose her account over the LOL, but she should never see the driver’s seat again. Imagine folks know she posted this, and next time she’s out driving drunk she kills someone. What does she post then? ROFL? Or “(grin)”?

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: On the other hand...


You buy ideas? Good one. LOL.


That’s the fucking problem. Everyone is letting their imaginations take over the world. Boo! LOL.

I’d “imagine” that were she to drive drunk and kill somebody that she’d postscript with ‘FML’ but that’s just my imagination going wild. Yours… not so wild. Oh and thanks for the Patriot Act. LOL.

This does strikes me as self-deprecating being that the content includes “my dumb ass” which is a pretty good indicator that self-deprecation was intended. One can and does LOL at ones self, after all. LOL.

Note the subtle (or not) differences between:

I am such a dumb ass … LOL
You are such a dumb ass … LOL

These could be, believe it or not, two very different types of laughter involved with those two statements although, admittedly, it’s quite hard to differentiate intonation of some groupings of ascii characters. That does involve some level of effort for some folks. And you could always be wrong. As a side exercise see if you can guess the type of laughter in my previous examples. (hint: They’re all different)

Matt says:


You are too old to use “LOL”, regardless of your age.

Facebook is far from a necessity. Were she respectful of the law, she would have immediately deactivated her account, then written a letter to the judge to apologize and ask if he or she would permit her to reactivate. it after a reasonable interval.

Judges are people, and I bet this judge would have permitted it.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Childish

You are too old to pick your nose, regardless of age. No one should be told by a judge to delete their Facebook account because of it.

Also far from being a necessity: your appendix. Perhaps the judge should have asked her to have it removed as well?

Judges are people, and it looks like he let his initial human reaction to her Facebook post bother him enough to make a rather irrelevant demand. He should apologize for asking her to remove her entire Facebook account where she communicates with friends, family, and maybe even her business. And then, of course, sentenced her appropriately (jail, fine, license suspension, community service) for the circumstances related to her DUI.

Rapnel (profile) says:

“it seems wrong to order the deletion of an entire Facebook account over one off-hand statement like that”

There’s the fucking understatement of the day.

Humans are neat, most can reason. It’s when said reasoning becomes an imposed one based on nothing more than “I can and therefore..” Insanity.

Facebook account. Drunk driving. Delete. Uh. Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

The judge is a cunt. The law is getting more and more cunty every day. When you are not free from the law because the law has become your freedom – literally – then what is the point?

What I mean is at which point do we try and regain the street cred that should go along with freedom?

Delete your facebook account. Un-fucking-real. Kinda like AJ.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: back to myspace

Umm, considering the judge apparently thought they had the right to order her to delete her FB account over a comment posted on it in the first place, the judge may or may have the right(though I’d bet heavily on the ‘not’ side), but I’d say this judge is power-tripping to such an extreme that they would most certainly see something like that as just another case of ‘contempt of court’, and stack on even more fines and jail time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Her comment wasn’t as bad as some people believe it to be. It appears she didn’t physically hurt anyone. Damaged a car, yes, which she will be paying for.

If other entities are allowed to parody life situations where no one is injured (TV comedians for example), why not the offender? Her comments were made to her clique, not the victims.

I guess the Judge wants her to go into a state of deep depression as punishment. (Ugh, I am so depressed, now I must pay $2000 for therapy sessions or jump off a cliff). If you can’t eventually make light of life situations, then what’s the point. It doesn’t mean you’re going to repeat the offense again.

I salute her for not being diligent in closing the FB account. I’d probably have obeyed the order as much as I would had the judge ordered me to blink exactly 1895 times in the next 24 hours.

If everyone through the dawn of history obeyed judicial orders, we’d all have as much rights as an amoeba.

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid is

Did this broad not have herself a lawyer?

If not, then she’s stupid and deserves what she gets.
If so,then the lawyer is stupid and she deserve better representation.

She’s also stupid for thinking that the judge would not see her Facebook page…

She’s also stupid for posting on her Facebook page during an ongoing court case.

And Finally…She’s really, REALLY STUPID for for drinking and driving!

All in all…She’s really stupid!

robincanada (profile) says:

Like far too many of his brethren on the bench this dirty old man in a black dress needs to be removed from that bench, having forsworn his oath to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution (specifically here, the First Amendment). However, it’ll never happen, because far too many of his brethren believe, as he clearly does, that judges are above the law and can do any damn thing they please, with impunity, while on the bench.

btr1701 says:

Walker v City of Birmingham

> Are you sure you’re a lawyer?

Are you sure you know the difference between arguing what the law is and arguing that the law is *wrong*?

You seem to think that once a court rules on something the citizenry is not only obligated to follow it, but that it’s improper for them to even criticize it or suggest that it ought to be otherwise.

But as long as you’re making the case for blind obeisance to whatever order a court issues, why not answer the question you conveniently snipped in favor of cutting and pasting your Westlaw research:

If the judge had ordered her to renounce her religion, would it have been wrong for her to disobey?

Or to put it more generally, is there anything a court can order that is so outrageous that a citizen need not obey blindly or do judges literally have absolute power over you once you’re caught in their web?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...