Anonymous Speech by Darren Chaker

Darren Chaker , say no to censorship
Anonymous is a supporter of a Free Internet
Darren Chaker , say no to censorship

Anonymous is a supporter of a Free Internet

First Amendment balancing test, Darren Chaker, in the Ninth Circuit and other courts view the balancing interests to determine to allow anonymous speech online, even where viewpoint discrimination may be at play. In order to balance these interests, the courts have drawn by analogy from the balancing test that many courts have adopted in deciding whether to compel the disclosure of anonymous sources or donors.  United States v. Caporale, 806 F.2d 1487, 1504 (11th Cir. 1986); Miller v. Transamerican Press, Inc., 621 F.2d 721 (5th Cir. 1980); Carey v. Hume, 492 F.2d 631 (D.C. Cir. 1974); Cervantes v. Time, 464 F.2d 986 (8th Cir. 1972); Baker v. F&F Investment, 470 F.2d 778, 783 (2d Cir.1972).  See also UAW v. National Right to Work, 590 F.2d 1139, 1152 (D.C. Cir.1978); Black Panther Party v. Smith, 661 F.2d 1243, 1266 (D.C. Cir. 1981).   Moreover, the anonymous publication of musical works, like other forms of performance, is speech protected by the First Amendment.   In re Verizon Internet Svces, 257 F. Supp.2d 244, 260 (D.D.C. 2003), rev’d on other grounds, 351 F.3d 1229 (D.C. Cir.).

Accordingly, the courts that have considered this question have adopted a several-part balancing test to decide whether to compel the identification of an anonymous Internet speaker so that he may be served with process.

This test was most fully articulated in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A2d 756 (N.J.App. 2001), which remains the only appellate opinion in the country to face the question squarely.  Dendrite requires the would-be plaintiff to (1) use the Internet to notify the accused of the pendency of the identification proceeding and to explain how to present a defense; (2) quote verbatim the statements allegedly actionable; (3) allege all elements of the cause of action; (4) present evidence supporting the claim of violation, and (5) show the court that, on balance and in the particulars of the case.

Darren Chaker looked at several other courts have similarly set forth requirements of notice, review of the complaint, and presentation of argument and evidence before an ISP will be compelled to identify an Internet speaker.  For example, in Melvin v. Doe, 49 Pa.D.&C.4th 449 (2000), appeal quashed, 789 A.2d 696, 2001 Pa.Super. 330 (2001), appeal reinstated, 836 A.2d 42 (Pa. 2003), the trial court allowed an anonymous defendant to present evidence and seek summary judgment, ordering disclosure only after finding genuine issues of material fact requiring trial.  In reversing the denial of the defendant’s interlocutory appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court discussed at length the conflict between the right to speak anonymously and the plaintiff’s right to identify a potential defendant, and remanded for consideration of whether evidence of actual damage had to be presented before the right of anonymous speech could be disregarded.  836 A.2d at 47-50.

Similarly, in La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France v. Time Warner Cable, 2003 WL 22962857 (Conn. Super.), the court applied a balancing test and considered evidence that allegedly defamatory statements were false and caused injury before deciding to allow discovery concerning the identity of the speaker.   In Columbia Insurance Co. v. Seescandy.com, 185 FRD 573 (N.D.Cal. 1999), the court required the plaintiff to make a good faith effort to communicate with the anonymous defendants and provide them with notice that the suit had been filed against them, thus assuring them an opportunity to defend their anonymity, and also compelled the plaintiff to demonstrate that it had viable claims against such defendants.  Id. at 579.

Last, Darren Chaker found, in Re Subpoena to America Online, 52 Va.Cir. 26, 34 (2000), rev’d on other grounds, 542 S.E.2d. 377 (Va. 2001), the court required introduction of the allegedly actionable Internet posting, and required that the court be “satisfied by the pleadings or evidence supplied” that the subpoenaing party had a legitimate basis to contend that it was the victim of actionable conduct, “and . . . the subpoenaed identity information [must be] centrally needed to advance that claim.

About the Author

Darren Chaker
Greetings - I am Darren Chaker. I litigated a cutting edge First Amendment case for 7 of its 10 year lifespan. Chaker v. Crogan, 428 F.3d 1215 C.A.9 (Cal.),2005, Cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1128, 126 S.Ct. 2023, invalidated a statute on First Amendment grounds and overruled the California Supreme Court‘s unanimous decision in People v. Stanistreet, 127 Cal.Rptr.2d 633. Soon after Chaker v. Crogan, it was also used to strike down Nevada's analogous statute forcing the legislature to rewrite the law and used as the backbone authority in Gibson v. City of Kirkland, 2009 WL 564703, *2+ (W.D.Wash. Mar 03, 2009). My case is a leading case on viewpoint discrimination. In a recent case, Chaker v. Crogan was used to vindicate people who filed a complaint against police. Those people were arrested and charged with a law Chaker v. Crogan invalidated! They sued for being arrested and charged with an unconstitutional statute, Penal Code 148.6. The federal court denied the City's motion to dismiss and the case settled. See Cuadra v. City of South San Francisco, 2010 WL 55875, *1+ (N.D.Cal. Jan 04, 2010) I love the fight and made cutting edge case law in the end. No doubt without the support of the ACLU (Ramona Ripston, Mark Rosenbaum, Peter Eliasberg, & Dan Tokaji) winning on appeal, and Joshua Rosenkranz www.orrick.com/lawyers/Bio.asp?ID=225990 assembling a small army of the best attorneys to defeat the California Attorney General's efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court reverse the Ninth Circuit---this case would not have had a backbone to stand on. The case has been cited over 196 times as authority, and written about extensively. * Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation s 2:28, Denial of First Amendment rights (2009) * Smolla & Nimmer on Freedom of Speech s 3:11, Viewpoint discrimination--Cross-burning reprised: Commonwealth of Virginia v. Black--Heavy presumption against viewpoint discrimination (2010) * Smolla & Nimmer on Freedom of Speech s 10:22.50, Brandenburg v. Ohio: Intent and imminence standard--Bond and Watts decisions--"True threats" (2010) * CHAKER V. CROGAN, 5 Cardozo Pub. L. Pol'y & Ethics J. 425, 444+ (2007) My case is active, living and breathing—forever helping people who once felt oppressed.

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