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Pa. Judge’s Defamation Suit Sent Back to Superior Court


— November 20, 2003

Lawyers for Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin will have to prove before members of her own court that anonymous individuals who posted allegedly defamatory comments about her on the Internet should be forced to disclose their identities so she can proceed with a defamation suit against them. . . .

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Thursday remanded the First Amendment issue to the Superior Court after it decided a procedural question to permit the anonymous writers’ appeal of a trial judge’s interlocutory discovery order to reveal their identities. . . .

[Judge] Orie Melvin, who lost her run for a state Supreme Court vacancy earlier this month, learned in 1999 of comments posted on a Pittsburgh government-gossip Web site called “Grant Street ’99,” alleging she had engaged in “misconduct” by lobbying former Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration to appoint a particular lawyer to a judicial vacancy, according to the opinion.

She filed a defamation claim in Allegheny County and initiated discovery requests for the writers’ identities, according to the opinion. The writers requested a protective order and moved for summary judgment, claiming that they were protected by a First Amendment right to engage in anonymous political criticism and that the court should require Orie Melvin, as a public official, to show she had suffered actual economic harm before they could be required to reveal their identities.

Read the complete story here from The Legal Intelligencer.


Lawyers for Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin will have to prove before members of her own court that anonymous individuals who posted allegedly defamatory comments about her on the Internet should be forced to disclose their identities so she can proceed with a defamation suit against them. . . .

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Thursday remanded the First Amendment issue to the Superior Court after it decided a procedural question to permit the anonymous writers’ appeal of a trial judge’s interlocutory discovery order to reveal their identities. . . .

[Judge] Orie Melvin, who lost her run for a state Supreme Court vacancy earlier this month, learned in 1999 of comments posted on a Pittsburgh government-gossip Web site called “Grant Street ’99,” alleging she had engaged in “misconduct” by lobbying former Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration to appoint a particular lawyer to a judicial vacancy, according to the opinion.

She filed a defamation claim in Allegheny County and initiated discovery requests for the writers’ identities, according to the opinion. The writers requested a protective order and moved for summary judgment, claiming that they were protected by a First Amendment right to engage in anonymous political criticism and that the court should require Orie Melvin, as a public official, to show she had suffered actual economic harm before they could be required to reveal their identities.

Read the complete story here from The Legal Intelligencer.

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