An Ohio judge who allegedly posted comments to the Cleveland Plain Dealer under a pseudonym has sued the paper for $50 million for unmasking her.
Saffold also alleges in court papers that her ex-husband originally created the account, which was used by him, herself and her daughter, Sydney. Saffold's lawyer, Brian Spitz, says that the judge authored some of the lawmiss comments, but never wrote about any of the cases pending before her.
The newspaper reported that it only investigated the identity of lawmiss after someone using that screenname sent in a post dealing with the mental health of a relative of Plain Dealer reporter Jim Ewinger. The March 26 article also said that some other comments attributed to lawmiss concerned pending legal cases, including an ongoing capital murder trial.
She adds that the newspaper "reinforced the contractual expectation of privacy by only displaying anonymous screen names on comments from users."
While the paper will probably argue that its statement allows it to divulge users' data for any reason whatsoever, Saffold can counter that the examples provided all relate to business issues, but don't indicate that the paper's editorial staff will publish personal information in news articles.
Sam Bayard, assistant director of the Citizen Media Law Project, says it's hard to predict how a court will view the paper's decision. "I certainly think it broke expectations," he says. "Whether it breached the contract is another question."