Victory in Internet Defamation Case Involving Minnesota Resident

Feb. 10, 2009

Victory in Internet Defamation Case Involving Minnesota Resident

Public Citizen scored a victory today when a federal judge dismissed a defamation suit brought by Minnesota resident Lawrence Sinclair against three people who criticized him anonymously on the Internet.

Public Citizen represents one of the three defendants and a blog that was subpoenaed to identify Public Citizen’s client. The defamation suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Last year, during the presidential primaries, Sinclair posted a YouTube video in which he made outrageous claims against Barack Obama, arising from a supposed encounter at a Chicago nightclub in 1999 with the then-Illinois state senator.

In dismissing the suit, Judge John D. Bates found Sinclair’s case did not show enough merit to identify the anonymous critics, who had posted about Sinclair on DemocraticUnderground.com and Digg.com.

“The right to speak freely and openly on matters of public importance – and to choose to do so anonymously – is a cherished right in this country,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who handled the case. “Courts have consistently ruled that there must be a compelling reason to take away someone’s right to speak out anonymously on the Web. This case was no exception.”

READ documents related to the case.