counter statistics

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Attempts to Censor a Local Blogger

A few weeks ago, I was asked to testify as an expert witness. A former city council member in a small town in Minnesota attempted to use the domestic abuse courts to silence an online critic. Her complaint is located here. I have redacted plaintiff, defendent, court case number, and location of the court. The complaint is available here.

I feel this story is an important one to tell - because this affects bloggers beyond this particular case. If the plaintiff's effort was successful, it would set a chilling precident on freedom of speech.

I wrote the lawyer for the plaintiff asking: "Specifically, I'd like to know why she chose to make a stalking complaint, rather than writing to [the defendent] to complain about the offending posts first to see if something could be worked out, outside the courtroom. I also wish to know why she chose a criminal complaint, rather than a libel/slander suit. I've shown a few of my friends the complaint - and so far, all agree that "staring/glaring at a council meeting" is hardly stalking. If that was the case, everyone who has gone to council meetings, would need to be charged with stalking.

The plaintiff has a history of successfully silencing critics. A few years ago, a fellow city council member put up a website exposing her financial conflicts of interest. She reacted by suing for slander. The defendant in that case didn't have the resources to fight, so took the site down.

In the end the plaintiff's lawyer approached the defendent (my friend), asking to settle the case before going before the judge. The case ended up getting settled out of court.