DeRosa v. Doe

Township supervisor sues to get identity of anonymous Internet critics

Court/Assoc.: Allegheny Court of Common Pleas

Attorneys/Firms: Sara Rose (ACLU-PA)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is representing Richard Rattanni, who has operated the elizabethboro.com discussion board for more than 10 years to provide a forum for members of the local community to discuss politics and disseminate information. The discussion board is a free service that allows users to post comments and read comments posted by others.

Thomas DeRosa, the elected chairman of the Forward Township Board of Supervisors, filed a lawsuit in November 2009 claiming that two anonymous defendants - referred to as Howard Doe and Robin Doe in the complaint - posted defamatory statements about him on the discussion board. DeRosa issued a subpoena to Rattanni compelling him to divulge the identities of people who posted ten different comments about DeRosa on the discussion board under the thread "Fwd. Twp. DeRosa = Corruption."

On January 8, 2010, the ACLU will file a motion asking a judge to enter a protective order barring DeRosa from obtaining any information from Rattanni relating to the identities of the anonymous speakers who posted statements on the discussion board. The motion was presented at 2 p.m. on Friday, January 8, 2010, in courtroom 815 of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

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