We felt this was a clear abuse of subpoena powers on the behalf of Matt and Amy Roloff since we have nothing to with Washington County and their current lawsuit regarding land use and trespassing. We argued that the Roloffs were unfairly targeting Spiritswander and its community of posters for retaliation by seeking their personal information and was abusing the process by involving us in a completely unrelated matter, simply because they have a long-standing personal dislike for the opinions expressed on the Spiritswander Blog.
I maintain in court documents that I felt the public figure Roloffs' dislike of the Spiritswander Blog originated when I stated that I felt it was wrong for the Roloffs son, Jeremy Roloff, to use racial and homophobic slurs. Many readers as well as myself commented that we felt it was disappointing that Jeremy never apologized for it and felt that the Roloffs were hypocritical considering that one of the admirable things the Roloffs had done with their television show fame was to promote the message that derogatory words towards minority groups are hurtful. Spiritswander and all that chose to comment have a first amendment right to express their opinion on such subjects without fear of retaliation.
The only legal argument that the Roloffs provided pertaining to the case, was that they felt that one anonymous poster used the same phrase regarding the ark that was used in a deposition of an Washington County Employee. Thus, the Roloffs were arguing that because they wanted to know if a Washington County employee had ever anonymously commented on the case, that they somehow needed to know the identity of myself, information about my email and the identity of everyone that has ever posted a comment in the 4 year history. Our very logical explanation to the Roloffs claim that a person commenting as "Brandon" had demonstrated "insider" knowledge of the case when he repeated the phrase "the ark could topple over" was that Brandon was simply repeating what was already in the article that he was commenting on. The article contained a public statement that was released by and clearly labelled as a statement from Washington County's communication department.
In his ruling, Judge Michael W. Mosman simply stated that "Based on a balancing of the value of anonymous online speech and a need for this discovery, John Doe's Motion to Quash 39, 54, which has now properly been filed with contact information, is GRANTED. The subpoena seeking information concerning Mr. Doe's blog is QUASHED."
Several people have been very interested in this issue beyond just the Roloff family VS Spiritswander because of the First Amendment rights that were at stake. So I'll use this item to walk people through the process now that the judge has rendered his decision (in our favor).
First, I have to say that is very satisfying to have emerged victorious. It feels a little bit like a David VS Goliath situation. The big celebrities in their million dollar home and fleet of vehicles trying to flex their power by abusing the system and were attempting to walk over the rights of regular everyday people. As time consuming as this whole process was, I think it does demonstrate that when someone attempts to bully you and strip you of your rights because they may have more money that you do and they may be a "celebrity" -- it is important to stand up for your rights (and the rights of others) and fight. And you can emerge victorious.
Having said that, I still think it's very unfortunate that so much time (of many people) and money (including taxpayer) was spent on this issue which we always felt was a clear abuse of the system on behalf of Matt and Amy Roloff. It's unfortunate that Matt and Amy Roloff spend so much time dedicated to such issues rather than focusing on things that are really important in life, but that was the Roloffs prerogative.
The judge reaching a verdict that we feel delivers justice was a community effort and I would like to take a moment to say some public "Thank you's".
First and foremost, I don't believe this outcome would have been possible without the help and assistance Spiritswander received from internet attorney Karl Kronenberger at KronenbergerRosenfeld, LLP. It seemed like a daunting task to be just a "regular person" with no legal counsel and all of a sudden be told that you have 21 days (which included the holidays) to file an official legal document (Motion to Quash) or else you basically forfeit your First Amendment rights, thus allowing someone to abuse the system and win simply because you can't or don't know how to defend yourself.
At the beginning of this process, I sought the advice of leading internet lawyer Karl Kronenberger. Kronenberger Rosenfeld specializes in the sometimes complicated area of Internet law. Karl Kronenberger has represented all sides of Internet Law cases and has extensive knowledge of the process and what it is necessary to reach the correct outcome of disputes involving Internet law issues.
Although the basis of the Motion to Quash and the Responses were composed by myself (with the invaluable input and effort of poster Rap541), a successful outcome would not have been possible without Karl Kronenberger, Leah Vulic and all at Kronenberger Rosenfeld. They helped guide me through the process and always kept me informed of the next step. If you have any legal issue involving Internet law, I would highly recommend seeking Karl Kronenberger as your attorney. I can't emphasize it enough, but Karl and his team are truly fantastic. Their communication and timely responses to ensure that all deadlines are met is second to none. Any charity donation that Spiritswander and my readers are able to make is due to Karl Kronenberger's generosity.
So I would like to issue a heartfelt public thank you to Internet attorney Karl Kronenberger, Leah Vulic and everyone at Kronenberger Rosenfeld Internet Law Attorneys.
A big thank you to Rap541. Of course, Rap541 is a frequent poster on our blog and a guest reviewer, but Rap541 really stepped up to help me compose the core of the original Motion to Quash. Rap, like me, does not have a law degree, but Rap541 helped take an E-book that was purchased regarding filing a Motion to Quash and did a great job in constructing it into a successful legal document pertaining to our case. Rap541 and I would also like to extend a quick thank you to Rap's friend Lorraine that has some legal experience and provided some answers to Rap throughout this process.
Thank you to all of our readers that offered various forms of support. So many people did whatever they could to help. It was very over-whelming and much appreciated. Some of our readers volunteered to make very generous donations to help support whatever costs were to be incurred from fighting the subpoena. Thank you. In due time, we will have a detailed item about the donations and discussion about the money raised. We might actually be able to make a substantial donation to 2 different charities and causes.
Thank you to all that did searching of your own in an attempt to find sites that would be of help. Your efforts were appreciated. A lot of people have asked about the steps involved and people who might find themselves in a similar situation might ask what to do in this situation? Some people suggested sites that specialize in the area of internet rights and freedoms. I do appreciate anyone who was trying to help and suggested some of those sites. The basic response was 'Get a lawyer and good luck'.
When I first contacted Karl Kronenberger who specializes in the area of internet law, he suggested one option was to purchase the following E-book regarding 'How to file a Motion To Quash a Subpoena' yourself.
I did purchase that and it was very helpful in composing the core of the Motion to Quash (again, a big thank you to Rap541 who helped relate it to our specific case) . I do have to be honest and say that it is difficult without a background in law to navigate through the entire court process in the proper manner as there are many different steps. Again, that's where Karl Kronenberger and Kronenberger Rosenfeld, LLP guidance and advice throughout this whole thing (which has taken over two months) was vital to our victory. So thank you so much to Karl for being committed to ensuring that the correct outcome was reached in our particular case.
Thanks to the people who offered support in emails, did research regarding this process that was very helpful and who helped me monitor the docket.
Thanks to the poster that discovered Matt's twitter post where he announced that the act of subpoenaing Google was "probably the funnest thing [Matt] has ever done in life. Matt had deleted the post from his Facebook page and the post had escaped notice from most, but one of our readers discovered that it was still publicly posted on Matt's twitter account (which at the time, he had set up to automatically display his Facebook posts -- Matt and his staff obviously didn't realize that when he deletes from Facebook, the Twitter post remains). Our reader discovered that tweet by Matt, passed it along and it became an important part of our argument that suggested strongly that Matt Roloff was intentionally abusing the subpoena process by playing games with the system.
Before I get to the actual court documents, I will quickly outline what was involved and how things proceeded.
- On December 7th, I received a notice from Google Inc, stating that they had received a subpoena requesting all of my personal identifying information relating to my blog and my email address as well that of anyone that had ever submitted written material (including a comment) since the blog's inception 4 years ago. The subpoena request was made by Matt and Amy Roloff and their attorney. Google informed me they would comply with the subpoena and would hand over all that personal information to the Roloffs unless I filed a Motion to Quash with the court in Oregon by December 28th, 2011.
- With the help that I referenced above, I did submit the Motion to Quash and the subsequent Declaration on December 23rd, 2011
- Matt and Amy Roloff, through their attorney, exercised their right to oppose my Motion to Quash and did so on January 12th, 2012
- I exercised my right to submit my Response to Plaintiffs Opposition of my Motion to Quash and did so.
- The judge then granted me 14 days to re-file the Motion to Quash, this time using my real name and information instead of the anonymous "John Doe" -- yet it would be under seal and the content would be protected from the public (and from Matt and Amy Roloff and their attorney). The court received my re-submission on February 13th, 2012.
- On February 15th, 2012, Judge Michael W. Mosman rendered the verdict:
"Based on a balancing of the value of anonymous online speech and a need for this discovery, John Doe's Motion to Quash 39, 54, which has now properly been filed with contact information, is GRANTED. The subpoena seeking information concerning Mr. Doe's blog is QUASHED."
Below are all of the official court documents relating to this case. This is all public information that can be posted via what is known as "litigation privilege".
It is a lot of reading, but feel free to read it all if you're interested. I suspect the documents that will be of the most interest to people are the opposition to the Motion to Quash by Matt and Amy Roloff and my subsequent response to their opposition. Those documents demonstrate the level of focus and attention the Roloff family pay to the Spiritswander blog and all that comment on our site. Our response to their opposition gets into the specific details that have been discussed on the blog that were relevant to why the Motion to Quash should have been granted (which it now has been).
If you only want to read one of the documents, this is the one that gets into all the issues involved and details the history between the Roloff family and the Spiritswander Blog. The document is titled "Final John Doe's Reply to Plaintiffs' opp to Motion to Quash subpoena" :
With each document there is an accompanying "Declaration of" which supports each motion and contains the "exhibits" that were referenced in the documents.
[apparently some users browsing via Internet Explorer might have some trouble viewing these documents, but if you click on the actual link it should work for everyone including IE users.]
Declaration of John Doe
Response to Motion to Quash.wpd Jan 12
Response Declaration of Ross Day in Response to Motion to Quash Jan 12
Final John Doe's Reply to Plaintiffs' Opp to Motion to Quash Subpoena
Final Decl of John Doe ISO Reply to Opposition to Motion to Quash Subpoena