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Citizen attorney will fight subpoena for website comments

COVINGTON -- The Newton Citizen has hired an attorney who will file a motion to quash the subpoena seeking the names and information of individuals who negatively commented about the Alcovy High School principal on the Newton Citizen website.

David Hudson, the attorney for the Georgia Press Association, will represent the Newton Citizen in fighting a subpoena in connection with a lawsuit filed by LaQuanda Brown Carpenter, principal of Alcovy High School.

Attorney Stephanie Lindsey filed a lawsuit Wednesday against 11 "John Does" who commented about Carpenter on the website. Carpenter is claiming defamation and libel.

The pseudonyms named as "John Does" in the lawsuit are MsLoy, bluedeyeddevil, avidreader, spdracer90, GwinnettTransplant, amp72, newtoncountyparent, watermelonlover, beautifulblueeyes, Satan69, and KBeet.

The lawsuit cites 11 comments posted on the website between Feb. 10 and April 19, claiming that the comments are false, intended to expose Carpenter to "hatred, contempt and/or ridicule" and made with reckless disregard for the truth.

The comments were generally critical of Carpenter's performance as principal and of the fact that her husband, Dennis Carpenter, is deputy superintendent for operations, overseeing human resources and other school system departments.

"As a public official, she would have to prove that someone knew (the posting) was a falsehood and they would not be able to pursue anything that is pure opinion," Hudson said.

The subpoena requests by May 4 all information and documents sufficient to identify the names, addresses and telephone numbers associated with those named in the lawsuit, as well as documents reproducing the texts of the comments from Jan. 1, 2011, to present and all server logs, IP address logs, account information, account access records and application or registration forms related to those named.

Hudson said a body of law has developed around the country related to the obligation of a website host to reveal the IP address owners.

"In cases where this information is subpoenaed, the newspapers and other website hosts do come in and file motions to quash a subpoena by contending that no valid case has been asserted by the plaintiff," Hudson said.

Hudson said there have been no other cases of this type in Georgia but several in state and federal courts around the country.

Additionally, he said that the federal Communications Decency Act states that if a business is merely the host of a website, it is not legally responsible for what someone else posts on the site.

Jeff Meadors, vice chair of the Newton County Board of Education and representative for District 1, which includes Alcovy High School, said since the lawsuit was filed, he has received an "overwhelming" amount of emails from past and present employees, including many with legal documents.

He said he reads each email and plans to respond. He also encouraged his constituents to attend his next public forum on finance and accountability, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 10 in the auditorium at Eastside High School. He said the location was chosen as a closer place for parents who worked outside of Newton County at their requests; in the past, he has held the forums at Alcovy High School.

"It is unfortunate when things like this distract us from the one goal that matters: student success," Meadors wrote in an email Monday. "As public leaders, we are all open to public scrutiny and commentary. Personally, I expect it and I grow from it. With new business and industry looking at Newton at the present, and with many unsung successes in more than 20 school buildings, it is my hope that we can redirect our eyes to the prize of student achievement. Situations like this do not promote educational and community prosperity or leadership that is helpful to Newton's workforce development."

When asked if NCSS would have to get involved in the lawsuit since Carpenter is an employee and the suit involves comments about her place of employment and her husband, NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said, "All of this is very sad, to put it mildly. At this point, this matter will run its legal course as our laws demand whatever the outcome."

Editor Alice Queen contributed to this article.

Comments

amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes Dr. Mathews, it is sad. And you sat by and watched it unfold. Shame on you and kudos to the Citizen and Mr. Meadors for fighting for what is right. Now on to the next task, which is to clean up this school so students can succeed.

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

Even if this lawsuit is dismissed, that is not the end of this fight. The next step is for Dr. Mathews to replace the leadership at AHS. This is an embarrassing episode and is one of many. How much more can we stand? If Dr. Mathews won't make a change then the BOE should step in and do so. This is NOT the end!

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HonestAbe 1 year, 11 months ago

I had no doubt that Mrs Queen and this paper would take a stand to protect freedom of press and freedom of speech. It is such a shame but not a surprise that Newton County would be the first in the state to have a case such as this. I have been buying a copy of this paper every day it comes out , when i go out to beakfast. I have no problem paying newsstand price for it. Now i will go ahead and get a subscription for it.

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ShannonBlack 1 year, 11 months ago

Thank you Citizen attorney.  This renegade local attorney is harassing the courts and asking for nonsense things bullying at its finest but similar to the operations of the high school and threats to teachers.  We can and will come out of this better.  I took my sign down for this chick.  Imagine if she were ever a judge which won't happen now.  She would judge ruthlessly and vilely.

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Del 1 year, 11 months ago

LaQuanda......you best find a paddle because you are up the creek......big time

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

Dr. Mathews, please clarify your statement. What is "very sad," the fact that one of your principals filed a ridiculous and frivolous lawsuit because she can't stand the thought of her "stellar" reputation being tarnished or do you think it's sad that parents, teachers, staff and elected officials think there should be some accountability and you don't like that one of your principals is being attacked? It's obvious you support this principal by your inability to step in and DO YOUR JOB. It is your job to ensure student success and to manage the system to eliminate distractions such as this. Yet you do nothing. Teachers are being fired or suspended, and yet this person continues to go about her business. At the very least she should be suspended while you investigate the allegations that are now coming out. Mr. Meadors said it himself, people are contacting him with legal documents. This spells trouble. And you just sit by and watch. No wonder we have poor leadership in this county.

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KBeet 1 year, 11 months ago

so let me get this straight - this lawsuit is not about pain and stress it is about revenge for telling the truth of bad leadership - the lady that came forward that she put on leave and told to find work elsewhere over a personal comment was coerced by saying her name would be removed from the lawsuit - this is trashy stuff - this woman will never be a judge in this county

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

The thing is, this is NOT the first time. Carpenter has done this to teachers at Alcovy before. If she thinks you are against her or that you might harm her reputation she goes after you. If she spent that same energy on making the school better it would be a great place.

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

Carpenter appears to be the favorite among parents and the public.

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20120501/NEWS/205010339/Survey-shows-parent-favorite-JPS-post?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Home|s

Please don't take him, Jackson Public Schools!

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KBeet 1 year, 11 months ago

Someone should investigate all books for club monies under this principal and depose all club sponsors from 2009 to present.  You will be amazed.

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MsLoy 1 year, 11 months ago

so can my mom sue since she was called and threatened with GBI investigations

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

Have your mom contact the newspaper and get that story out.

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Satan69 1 year, 11 months ago

AMP it is MY opinion (sue me sue me) that Dr. Matthews is in "pass the trash" mode and is not wanting to get involved so we can move this little drama of nepotism  to Mississippi.  This is my opinion.  It is not actionable.  I will plead the fifth if you make it so.  And by the way I am on my bosses computer.

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

That's my opinion too, which is a sad state of affairs.

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Grandcanyon 1 year, 11 months ago

AMP they will probably add Meadors to the lawsuit because he talked.  Remember you cannot speak your mind or opinion in Communist Newton.  I was told that administrators are calling him with tons of inside scoop on this woman.  But it is his district and he should speak and listen. 

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amp72 1 year, 11 months ago

It's amazing that you can suspend a teacher for 10 days and investigate silly allegations but no one has the guts to suspend an administrator for MUCH serious issues. I trust Meadors is working hard, the problem is he has road blocks- namely those who held an illegal meeting to silence him.

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Grandcanyon 1 year, 11 months ago

It amazes me MsLoy that these people put themselves all over and out in the paper for negative things constantly on job searches on our dime and then they have the nerve to whine and sue people for exercising free speech.  Yes HonestABe there are 2 board members behind this and the clue is this is an election year but I think this all went very wrong for the principal and her amublance chaser who has harassed the court people and acted in my opinion immaturely and unprofessionally and seemingly lacking in legal knowledge.  So yes it is time to elect two new board members in November and if we can ship the pair of chaos out of the county soon then this school system will turn around.  I am disappointed at the least in the sheepish response of our system leader.

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Henrycounselor 1 year, 11 months ago

I really agree with AMP.   The superintendent should make this lady resign or step in and investigate.

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CBSfinder 1 year, 11 months ago

can we get a new board chair I was HORRIFIED when this man put on sunglasses at the ribbon cutting in front of the lt governor there is very little class on our board

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Crazyhooker99 1 year, 11 months ago

thank you for protecting free speech - i work in this building and have before this pair ever came to town and i will write this comment and i am an American so get over it.  These two set themselves up for failure, hiring sisters, hiring nephews, using power and coercion to threaten, intimidate and this is illustrated in their suer mentality.  Your school board and mine has allowed it at least most of them by either silence have allowed it so think about who you want on your school board in the future.  There is NO county in this state that allows this conflict of interest

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KimberlyD 1 year, 11 months ago

Exactly right !! I'm sure if and when she has to go to another school, she will sue if she doesn't get hired? It's a crying shame!!!

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