Apr 18, 2011

Case Law: Philip R. Klein

The Beaumont Enterprise

Google doesn't have to disclose Southeast Texas bloggers identities, Texas Supreme Court says By Sarah Moore

An order to compel Internet giant Google to disclose the identity of two anonymous bloggers accused of defaming a Southeast Texas private detective and blogger has been struck down by the Texas Supreme Court.

Phillip R. Klein sued Google to learn the identity behind two blogs, OperationKleinwatch and SamTheEagleUSA, that directed satire and criticism at him. Klein sought their identities to pursue claims of copyright infringement, defamation, conspiracy and invasion of privacy against them.

Klein complained in his petition that he was defamed by posts including a parody of a Dog Fancy magazine article "Fat Men Who Love Their Dogs Too Much." But Houston constitutional law attorney Jeffrey L. Dorrell argued that Klein is "libel proof" because facts about Klein's bankruptcies, many lawsuits and other information on his blog are already public knowledge.

Judge Donald Floyd of the 172nd District Court ordered Google to provide the bloggers names Jan. 29, 2010.

Dorrell filed a writ of mandamus asking for the order to be vacated on behalf of the bloggers after the Ninth Court of Appeals refused the original mandamus.

The higher court had stayed Floyd's order in June 2010 to consider the merits of the bloggers' argument that the constitution protects their right to criticize public personalities anonymously.

The Supreme Court of Texas Blog:

Anonymous blogging decision from SCOTX; [Apr. 15, 2011]by Don Cruse

Because there are so many other kinds of personal information out there in the world besides anonymous speech, the Court’s holding on this seemingly narrow procedural ground may be even more important than if it had instead based its result on First Amendment grounds.
  • In re John Does 1 and 2, No. 10-0366 (per curiam) (DDB). In a per curiam opinion, the Court granted mandamus relief to a blogger who wanted to maintain his (or her) anonymity. The plaintiff in this defamation case sought discovery against Google, which agreed to produce the materials. The blogger filed a motion to quash. The trial court did not follow the usual procedures (in Texas Rule 202) because the plaintiff and Google had already reached an agreement.

    The Texas Supreme Court holds today that the requirements of Rule 202 still applied because the blogger had an obvious interest in the outcome. “But PRK and Google were not the only parties to the proceeding. Rule 202.3(a) requires that ‘all persons petitioner expects to have interests adverse to petitioner’s in the anticipated suit’ be served with the petition and given notice of hearing. PRK asserted that relators would be defendants in the anticipated lawsuit, and by their motions to quash, relators made an appearance in the proceeding. PRK and Google could not modify the procedures prescribed by Rule 202 by an agreement that did not include relators.”

Internet Cases

Texas supreme court says identities of anonymous bloggers should not be disclosed
By Evan Brown

In re Does, — S.W.3d —, 2011 WL 1447544 (Texas, April 15, 2011)

The issue of anonymity is a hot topic in internet law. The question of whether an internet user known only by an IP address or username or website name should be identified arises fairly often in the early stages of internet defamation and certain copyright infringement cases. For example, the issue is a big one in the numerous copyright cases that have been brought recently against BitTorrent users who get subpoenas after being accused of trading copyrighted works online.

The supreme court of Texas has issued an opinion that protects the anonymity of a couple of bloggers who were accused of defamation, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy by another blogger. The court ordered that a subpoena served on Google (who hosted the Blogger accounts in question) be quashed.
Texas rules of procedure (Rule 202) allow a petitioner to take depositions before a lawsuit is filed in order to investigate a potential claim. The petitioner in this case filed such an action, and Google agreed to turn over the information about the anonymous Blogger users.

But the anonymous bloggers objected, and moved to quash the deposition subpoena, arguing that the findings required for the discovery to be taken had not been made.

The trial court was required to find that:
  1. allowing the petitioner to take the requested depositions may prevent a failure or delay of justice in an anticipated suit; or
  2. the likely benefit of allowing the petitioner to take the requested deposition to investigate a potential claim outweighs the burden or expense of the procedure.
Neither of these findings were made. Petitioner had tried to argue that the findings were not necessary because he had gotten the agreement of Google to turn over the information.

But the court saw how that missed the point. It held that without the required findings, the discovery could not be taken in the face of objections brought by other interested parties (the parties whose identities were at risk of being revealed).

While many courts have evaluated this kind of question using a first amendment analysis (i.e., is the John Doe’s interest in speaking anonymously outweighed by the plaintiff’s right to seek redress), the court in this case looked to more general concerns of avoiding litigation abuse. Citing to a law review article by Professor Hoffman, the court observed that there is “cause for concern about insufficient judicial attention to petitions to take presuit discovery” and that “judges should maintain an active oversight role to ensure that [such discovery is] not misused”.


Anonymous said...

PRK's oft-predicted demise of The Enterprise didn't come soon enough to save him from more public humiliation. It's time for KFDM, KBMT and the The Port Arthur News, three of his regular targets, to pile on.

Anonymous said...

He's demanding an apology from the Enterprise in his latest "editorial" after he's been printing lies about them for years.

What an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I read his editorial and the decision on Gus's blog here. Looks to me like the Supreme Court slapped Klein for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Has he hit 50 yet?

Anonymous said...

That Beaumont Enterprise article flew right over Fat Fil's head.

Anonymous said...

The more he lashes out, the more I giggle.

Anonymous said...

Anon 952: by the time he sues the Texas Supreme Court and all of the justices, he'll hit 75.

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Anonymous said...

Kleiny got his heiney spanked.

Anonymous said...

fil's editorial today is by far the most pathetic piece he's ever posted. His ego is diminished so he's blaming the Enterprise and KFDM, now he's blaming Sara. I still don't know why he sued Google, he proclaimed his knowledge of Sam's identity after offering a reward, and now says the "lawsuit" doesn't matter because he got the IP's anyway!

fil, when will you ever grasp what a bumbling, deceitful fool you appear to be?

Anonymous said...

His "expanded" lawsuit will include all jefferson county residents above the age of 6.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Klein say he would d take this to the Supreme Court if he lost?

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Anonymous said...

OMG, Philip gets an F in Case Law 101 for the semester.

Anonymous said...

That editorial has to be the funniest thing I've ever read. Klein doesn't even realize how stupid this makes him look.

Anonymous said...

Funny he didn't include the part where they noted his charges were "sketchy." Gus and Sam have been saying that for years.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Phillip's lawyer. I bet it's hard for him to keep a straight face when he's talking to his client.

Anonymous said...

Klein's a nut case.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pillsbury-

You are a disgrace to bloggers' everywhere, SIR. My wife no longer reads you and neither does her boyfriend. You should hang your head in shame. Mr. Klein has "never been bankrupt", he said so. And all the "lawsuits", they just between business, "he" has never sued anybody, he said so. There's no way he could have "sex with farm animals" either, he said so on that too. You and Mr. Eagle have no heart or "sole" and I'm never reading your site again. I "here" many others have quit too and pretty soon a riot will "irrupt" if you continue pursuing your agenda. You, you scared little girls.

Hemraj said...