COVINGTON -- The hearing on the Newton Citizen's motion to quash the subpoena seeking information identifying individuals named in a lawsuit by Alcovy High School Principal LaQuanda Brown Carpenter has been set for June 14 in Newton County Superior Court, according to Citizen attorney David Hudson.
The subpoena was issued against the Newton Citizen newspaper and its editor Alice Queen by Carpenter's attorney Stephanie Lindsey, seeking to identify 11 "John Does" who commented negatively about Carpenter on the Citizen web site.Upon receipt of the motion to quash, Lindsey notified Hudson that she had suspended the requested deposition of Queen, along with information and documents on the matter, pending the outcome of the hearing.Carpenter is claiming defamation and libel for 11 comments posted between Feb. 10 and April 19, which she claims are false, intended to expose her to "hatred, contempt and/or ridicule" and made with reckless disregard for the truth.
The subpoena requested 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.
The motion objects to the subpoena for the newspaper and Queen's deposition and production of documents.
Hudson contends in the motion that the request for documents is invalid because of the qualified privilege for journalists against disclosing the information.
Additionally, he argues that in other states, courts have ruled in favor of protection for the anonymity of "speakers" on the Internet and courts have extended free speech protections to the Internet. He asserts that a plaintiff cannot force the identification of any anonymous Internet speaker without showing a valid reason.
The motion states that the comments cited in the lawsuit are writers' opinions or criticisms of Carpenter and privileged under the First Amendment.
"Each instance where she alleged that she was defamed is nothing more than a statement of opinion which is protected from a claim of defamation," the motion reads, adding that the incidence of alleged libel does not rise to the level of a serious prima facie case for defamation against any of the anonymous sources and that is sufficient reason for quashing the subpoena.
Newton Citizen reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.