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Mobilisa, Inc. v. John Doe 1 and The Suggestion Box

This case involved the identity of an anonymous Internet speaker who obtained an email that the married head of Mobilisa, a software company, had sent from work to his mistress, and distributed the email to other executives with the comment that the email reflected poorly on the company. Instead of suing himself for invasion of privacy, the executive had the company sue alleging that the email must have been obtained by hacking into the company’s computer system. The company obtained a subpoena to the emailer’s Internet Service Provider from Arizona Superior Court, and after receiving sworn denials from the executive and his mistress that they had given the email to anyone else or authorized access to their personal email accounts, the trial judge ordered the disclosure of the anonymous emailer’s identity. Both the Doe and the Internet Service Provider appealed. Public Citizen filed a brief as amicus curiae urging the Arizona Court of Appeals to consider both whether plaintiff had made a technically adequate showing of facts sufficient to make a case under the specific claims filed, and the equitable concerns underlying the plaintiff’s claim for redress and the anonymous speaker’s First Amendment right to remain anonymous if he did not commit the alleged acts.

The Court vacated the order enforcing the subpoena, issued an opinion agreeing with the Dendrite approach to deciding whether to identify anonymous sources, and remanded for further proceedings.