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Anonymous blogger wins round in Cooley’s defamation suit

Posted Apr 9, 2013 7:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Thomas M. Cooley Law School lost a round in its bid to unmask an anonymous blogger when the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled last week that a trial judge erred when denying a protective order in the case.

The appellate opinion (PDF) said the trial court failed to state why it denied the request for a protective order by the blogger using the handle Rockstar05, the National Law Journal reports. The judge also incorrectly ruled that per se defamatory statements about criminality are not entitled to First Amendment protection, the opinion said.

The law school had sued the blogger for defamation after he or she created a blog called the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam. Rockstar05, who claimed to be a former student, accused the school of being a “diploma mill” and said it was one of the three worst law schools in the United States. According to the law school’s suit, Rockstar05 also alleged the law school and its representatives are “criminals” and committed fraud.

The case now returns to the trial court for a new determination on the blogger's bid to remain anonymous.

The blogger was represented by Public Citizen lawyer Paul Levy. Writing at the Public Citizen Consumer Law & Policy Blog, Levy says the ruling is “a mixed blessing for anonymous Internet speakers in future cases” because it gave little guidance on standards governing anonymous speakers’ requests for protective orders.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Michigan Appeals Court to Consider Anonymity for Blogger Who Criticized Cooley Law School"

ABAJournal.com: "Cooley Sues Law Firm and Bloggers, Says Law School Falsely Accused of Misstating Grads’ Success"

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