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the legal rights of bloggers - under NY Law

Lawgavel Can a blogger be sued for defamation of character when stating an opinion?

The NY State Supreme Court says NO! (heads up, this is a pdf, for a press release click here)

So here's the story:

Background: Back in my hometown of Lawrence, NY,  there has been some intense strife over public funding of private schools.  While the Lawrence Public School System was once widely attended, changing neighborhood demographics have brought local public school attendance to an all-time low.   Almost all of the locals go to private schools.  The local public schools are swimming in funding but have to bus in students from other districts just to fill their classrooms.  Private school parents want their ridiculously high tax dollars to pay for busing, textbooks and other educational benefits commonly available to all public school students (for the private school children).  Public school advocates claim that by waiving their right to attend public schools, private school parents waive their right to funding.

This fight has become incredibly tense and bitter with the local school board pulling funding of many programs frequented by private school attendees.  School board elections have become intense battles with everyone in the community showing up and campaigning.  The school board is now composed of mostly private school parents.  Election fraud has even happened on occasion (I was not allowed to vote because they kept "misplacing" my voter registration).  In shot, it's gotten dirty.

The Story: A local blogger called "Orthomom" posted some of her opinions on the local politics.  Her commenter's weighed in and used some arguably harsh language in describing a certain local public school official.  A member of the school board felt wronged and defamed -  and sued Google to obtain Orthomom's identity for a further lawsuit.  The case has progressed over the past few years.  Yesterday, the NY Supreme Court upheld the privacy rights of Orthomom.

Today is a proud day for bloggers.  If we could be sued for writing our thoughts about others and their actions, we'd all be in trouble.

Way to go first amendment!

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