July 13, 2006
Defrocked Rabbi Drops Case Seeking Anonymous Bloggers’ Identities
End of Suit Is a Victory for First Amendment Rights on the Internet
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, the former leader of an Orthodox Jewish congregation in New Hempstead, N.Y., has withdrawn the proceeding he filed in Ohio in an attempt to subpoena the identities of four anonymous bloggers who wrote on the Web about his alleged sexual misconduct.
Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy represented the bloggers, www.rabbinicintegrity.blogspot.com, www.jewishsurvivors.blogspot.com, www.jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com and www.newhempsteadnews.blogspot.com. The four bloggers had anonymously posted material on their Web sites describing the former rabbi’s alleged misconduct and sexual harassment of female congregants whom he had been advising.
Tendler had filed petitions to subpoena the bloggers’ identities, both in Ohio and California district courts. Public Citizen, which has been a strong defender of First Amendment rights on the Internet, has filed a motion that Tendler’s California petition should be denied because it would violate the bloggers’ constitutional right to free speech.
“This just goes to show the importance of protecting anonymity, because as soon as Tendler found out that we had filed a motion against him, he withdrew his petition,” Levy said. “He was never prepared to prove that the allegations against him were false – he only wanted his critics’ names so that he could go after them. The First Amendment demands this kind of protection for citizens using their right to free speech.”
Cindy Cohn of the San Francisco-based, non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation serves as local counsel for Public Citizen. To view the motions, click here and here. To learn more about Public Citizen’s work defending the First Amendment rights of Internet users, click here.