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Thomson v. Doe

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Right To Speak Anonymously



An anonymous review on Avvo criticized the services provided by a Tampa Florida divorce lawyer to her client. The lawyer sued the reviewer in Florida state court, then issued a Washington subpoena to compel Avvo to provide information identifying the client. Avvo served objections to the subpoena, and the lawyer moved to compel. The trial court denied the motion and the lawyer appealed. Because Washington state courts have not yet decided whether to adopt the Dendrite approach to subpoenas to identify anonymous speakers, which we created and have since championed, we entered the case on appeal to represent the client in defending her First Amendment right to remain anonymous. We argue that denial of the motion to compel should be affirmed because the lawyer presented no evidence that anything the client said constituted a false statement of fact, or that the allegedly defamatory words had caused the lawyer any injury. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision refusing to enforce the subpoena, holding in agreement with other states that plaintiff seeking to identify an online speaker that she has charged with violating her rights must introduce evidence supporting her claim, and not merely allegations.

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