Anonymous Internet Critics
Cooley's defamation suit, pending in the Ingham County Circuit Court, was assigned to Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III. Cooley is represented by the Miller Canfield law firm and the anonymous blogger, using the pseudonym "Rockstar05", is represented by Berkeley, MI attorney John Hermann.
For their part, Miller Canfield has been vigorously prosecuting their cause of action, issuing subpoenas in two states [Michigan and California] to the Rockstar05's Internet service provider, seeking to rip the lid off the blogger's identity.
In September and October, hearings were conducted on Rockstar05's motion to quash Cooley's subpoenas. Somewhere along the way, the internet service provider in California apparently made an inadvertent disclosure of the blogger's identity to the Miller Canfield firm, who immediately moved the court to amend the complaint, seeking to add the now-disclosed individual to the suit.
Judge Canady initially sequestered the pleadings and documents that referenced Rockstar05's identity while it considered supplemental briefings on this First Amendment issue. In October, however, the lower court denied Rockstar05's motion to quash the subpoena, providing time for defendant to lodge an interlocatory appeal, and allowing an amicus [various media organizations] to intervene in the case.
Rocktar05 has appealed Judge Canady's decision relative to the subpoena. The media has filed a hard-hitting amicus brief. Miller Canfield's response on behalf of Cooley Law School is expected to be filed any day now.
This blog predicts that the Michigan Court of Appeals will grant leave for this issue to be decided; apparently one of first impression here in Michigan.
At stake is the ability of vocal critics of a "public figure" to express their opinion anonymously, without the fear of having their mask pulled off, and their identity disclosed.
You'll have to stay tuned for the results on this important case. It could likely take a few years to wind its way through the court system.