Google Subpoena Quashed, Blogger Remains Anonymous
Judge Terence Flynn in Monmouth County late last week issued a two-page order quashing the town's subpoena against Blogspot owner Google in the case.
"We're grateful that Judge Flynn upheld the First Amendment rights of our client and recognized that anonymous speakers should not be intimidated into silence through the discovery process," Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Matt Zimmerman, who represents daTruthSquad, said in a statement.
The subpoena in the Manalapan matter was issued in the course of a malpractice lawsuit against former city attorney Stuart Moskowitz stemming from the township's 2005 purchase of contaminated land.
DaTruthSquad had written posts criticizing the township, prompting officials to speculate in court that daTruthSquad was Moskowitz's pseudonym. Moskowitz denied that allegation in court. The township then subpoenaed Google, demanding that the company disclose all information connected with daTruthSquad's blog, including drafts of posts, emails and other contact information.
The digital civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation got involved in the matter, arguing that the identity of the blogger was irrelevant to the malpractice case. "The townships seeks to improperly interfere with the First Amendment rights of a pseudonymous critic for reasons separate from any legitimate need for discovery," the group argued in its motion advocating that the court let daTruthSquad remain anonymous.
The case isn't the only time a court has ruled that bloggers are entitled to the same legal protections as writers whose criticism appears in more traditional media. Last year, an appellate court in California rejected an attempt by Apple Computer to learn the identity of sources who leaked information to bloggers. The appeals court in that state ruled that its shield law, protecting the identity of confidential sources, applied to material published by bloggers as well as the mainstream media.