October 22, 2009

Erstwhile Yale Law students Heide Iravani and Brittan Heller settle the lawsuit they brought against Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey, Pauliewalnuts and Sleazy Z, etc. — the AutoAdmit commenters who wrote those nasty things.

I've written about this lawsuit many times, and now, because the terms of the settlement are being kept secret, it's hard to comment. I would like to know if the real goal of the lawsuit was to destroy the various individuals who had written under pseudonyms. Did the claims have much chance of success? Not knowing how much if any money Heller and Iravani extracted from the men they sued, it's hard to say. That dollar amount is an important fact — kept secret — that has to do with whether the legal process was used mainly (or only) to inflict public exposure on people who took advantage of the ability to write pseudonymously on the internet. That is an important free speech issue, and I would like all the relevant information about it. Heller and Iravani got the names they wanted. I want the numbers.

17 comments:

Mark O said...

Is there intended to be an exception from the laws of defamation for pseudonymous posters? Would that be a good thing? If so, they why just on the Internet?

Peter V. Bella said...

While many suits are settled in a confidential manner, this one really begs the questions of who, what, and why.

Why the confidentiality and who which side- requested it? What is so important to hide?

Ann Althouse said...

@ Mark O. The answer to your question is no, but it is the wrong question. The question should be: What should a court require before it allows a claim of defamation to be used as a device to expose a pseudonymous writer?

AllenS said...

Send them an email and ask for more information. Then you can share it with us. Tell them you're a law professor.

G Joubert said...

Why the confidentiality and who which side- requested it? What is so important to hide?

One party or the other doesn't want it known how much they paid out or how little they settled for, and one side or the other doesn't want the other party out there publicly claiming victory.

rdkraus said...

Someone, preferably a news organization could file a motion to unseal the settlement. That occurred recently in NJ with a PI case at Giants Stadium. It was unsealed.

MadisonMan said...

As this was a lawsuit that you wanted to fail, per the link labels, do you consider this resolution a failure? Did you hopes come true? :)

And what about the other lawsuits that were filed, by Matthew C. Ryan and Anthony Ciolli? Are they still winding their way through the courts?

former law student said...

MadisonMan makes a good point: Ciolli's countersuit may yet expose the YLS students' motivation and answer Althouse's question.

Mark O said...

Ann, there are all sorts of statutes like that in many states. They require some initial finding of "merit" in the pleading of defamation. California is a great example. But, one assumes you know that. Moreover, I assumed you knew what the threshold was in this case because of your coverage of it.

My question is not wrong. You have added an element to the defamation claim solely for the benefit of pseudonymous posters.

According to the accounts of this case on this blog, the posts were clearly defamation. You raise a point not relevant to this case and decribe it as the real question.

To the extent you have questions, there is a significant body of law regarding these special threshold statutes, their application and their validity.

Ann Althouse said...

@ Mark I did not think the court applied a high enough threshold, as I said in previous posts. I consider it a terrible problem.

Ann Althouse said...

"According to the accounts of this case on this blog, the posts were clearly defamation."

No. Different defendants wrote different things, and for some of them it was hard to see what the legal claim was. Some of the meanest things were just opinion or jokes. Some stated facts, but I don't know whether it was established that the facts were true.

Ann Althouse said...

"You have added an element to the defamation claim solely for the benefit of pseudonymous posters."

My point is about discovery and abuse of process.

David said...

So where are Heide and Brittan now? What are they doing with their lives? Have their lives been improved in any fashion by these lawsuits?

I would not be interested in hiring Heide and Brittan for my law firm (if I still had one.) I want(ed) colleagues who are resilient and forward looking, not easily bruised and seeking restitution, whether by legal process or otherwise. I want(ed) lawyers who could keep their clients out of litigation, not ones whose legs tingle at novel theories and public conflict.

Come out, come out, wherever you are, Heide and Brittan.

David said...

I googled Heide.

Interesting lady. From North Carolina. Enviro activist. Quite pretty from the photos.

In high school lead a protest that got her national notice. Also while in high school was "only high school student" in a group of college students who went to Europe to tell Europeans how bad the United States was on environmental issues.

Did gigs in Central America, Jordan and elsewhere for environmental study/protest. Father got in some sort of embezzlement problem with World Bank. Some wahoo implied that it was her fault because she wanted daddy to buy her some horses.

Attended Univ. of North Carolina Chapel Hill. High GPA. Phi Beta Kappa. Major International Studies, minor Middle Eastern Studies. Probably did something else between UNC and Law School based on the timing but not clear what. (Horses?)

Graduated from Yale Law in normal course. No apparent distinction there other than her litigation.

My impression: Bright, pretty girl with a nice education. Advantaged--Daddy was able to finance a lot of resume building activities at a young age. Much more interested in the poor environment than the poor. Probably told by everyone from a young age how great she is. Judgment impaired perhaps, unless she really, really likes being a litigant. Te reputation recovery activity certainly did not help her reputation, except perhaps in a certain limited circle.

Attractive. Smart. Conventionally idealistic. Perhaps quite self absorbed (hard to tell for sure.) Hope her life turns out well.

former law student said...

David typed enough just now about Heide to have been named as a co-defendant, had he posted it on AutoAdmit at the relevant times.

Frodo Potter said...

David said "Hope her life turns out well."

Surely you jest.

Ann Althouse said...

"David typed enough just now about Heide to have been named as a co-defendant, had he posted it on AutoAdmit at the relevant times."

LOL.