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.

Filed Under: anonymity, cleveland, judge
Companies: plain dealer

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  1. icon
    Automcdonough (profile), 8 Apr 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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