Internet Law

Judge Sues Newspaper for $50M, Claims Breach of Promised Anonymity re Web Comments


Under fire over anonymous comments reportedly made from her private e-mail account about defendants and at least one lawyer in cases she is overseeing, an Ohio judge has blasted back by filing suit against the Cleveland newspaper that broke the story.

Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold says the Plain Dealer breached the terms of use for its website by disclosing her identity and her daughter’s identity in articles about anonymous comments reportedly made on the newspaper’s website from their joint e-mail account, according to WKYC Channel 3 and a press release (PDF) issued by her lawyer, Brian Spitz.

The Cuyahoga County suit she filed today seeks $25 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages for alleged breach of contract and invasion of privacy. In addition to the Plain Dealer, it names the newspaper’s parent company and other defendants responsible for administering the Cleveland.com site, contending that the newspaper, an editor and unknown reporters conspired with the entities that controlled confidential registration information to reveal it publicly.

“The Plain Dealer made significant policy promises and contracts regarding privacy and broke them,” Spitz told Channel 3 News. “Once they make promises like that, they just can’t break them.”

The editor named as a defendant, Susan Goldberg, declined to comment today when contacted by the television station; the article doesn’t include any comments from other defendants or indicate that WKYC attempted to reach them.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “‘Lawmiss’ Comment on Accused Serial Killer Is Linked to Judge Overseeing His Case”

ABAJournal.com: “After Web Post About Serial Murder Case, Judge Should Step Down, Lawyer Says”

ABAJournal.com: “Judge Accused of Case-Related E-Mail Declines to Step Down, Blames Media”

Plain Dealer (opinion): “Editorial: Allegations of Cuyahoga Judge Saffold’s bias against lawyer should go to Ohio Supreme Court”

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