Mordechai Tendler v. Doe

Internet Free Speech — Right To Speak Anonymously
Press Releases:
Case Description: 

A New York rabbi who was expelled from the rabbinical association and fired by his congregation sought prelitigation discovery in Ohio to identify bloggers who commented on the controversy. When Google refused to obey an Ohio subpoena, he obtained subpoenas in California. The bloggers moved to quash and filed a special motion to strike under the California anti-SLAPP law. Although the rabbi dropped the subpoenas, the bloggers obtained an award of attorney fees under the SLAPP law,However, the California Court of Appeal reversed, finding that California’s anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to subpoena proceedings in support of litigation being maintained in another state. California has since adopted a statute, Code of Civil Procedure sections 1987.1 and 1987.2, providing for awards of attorney fees when a litigant in a different state obtains subpoena to identify an anonymous speaker but the subpoena is quashed.

In June 2008, Tendler issued a press release saying that he was now free to subpoena the identities of the bloggers, and in February 2011, in the course of litigating over the damages payable by the synagogue that fired him, he issued a new subpoena. Public Citizen once again moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the statute of limitations for a libel suit was long past, and that the identities of Tendler's critics is irrelevant to the amount of damages that Tendler is owed for his discharge. The court quashed the subpoena because the amount of damages for breach of Tendler’s employment contract is not a “core issue” sufficient to overcome the First Amendment right of a potential witness who is not himself a defendant in the litigation to remain anonymous.