Watch what you say about lawyers (and everyone else), cont’d: a “Philadelphia judge has ruled that a valid defamation claim trumps any right to speak anonymously on the Internet….Common Pleas Judge Albert W. Sheppard Jr. ordered the operator of two now-defunct Web sites to turn over the identities of the anonymous authors of comments on the sites that allegedly defamed a Philadelphia law firm….In the suit, the Klehr Harrison firm complains that its reputation was severely disparaged by comments on the two sites that falsely accused its lawyers of being ‘thieves,’ committing ‘fraud’ and ‘lying’ to a judge.” Although courts in some other states have protected anonymous online commenters from demands that their identity be disclosed, Sheppard said Pennsylvania law was not obliged to follow that path. (Shannon P. Duffy, “Law Firm’s Defamation Claim Found to Trump Critics’ Internet Anonymity”, The Legal Intelligencer, Jan. 23). For more on the legal hazards of criticizing Pennsylvania lawyers and judges, see Nov. 30, 2003, Mar. 16, 2004, and Oct. 24-25, 2001.
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