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COA rules it doesn’t have jurisdiction over online comment appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals issued a 20-page order Dec. 7 outlining why Judges Edward Najam and Elaine Brown dismissed The Indianapolis Star’s latest appeal against having to release the name of an online commenter to the plaintiff in a lawsuit.

Jeffrey Miller, former CEO of Junior Achievement of Indiana, sued multiple parties for defamation and sought to add people who made anonymous comments on news organization websites that ran stories about Miller and Junior Achievement.

Marion Superior Judge S.K. Reid ordered several news outlets, including The Star, to release the identity of online commenters. The newspaper fought the order, and the Court of Appeals in February reversed. The case went back to Reid with a requirement to apply a modified version of the Dendrite test to determine whether Miller satisfied the requirements for obtaining the commenter’s identity.

The trial court again ordered the newspaper to disclose the commenter's identity in October, leading The Star to appeal again. After initially blocking Reid’s order in November, the appellate court held a hearing Nov. 20 on the matter, leading to two of the three judges deciding the court does not have jurisdiction to consider the trial court’s discovery order. The newspaper argued that the discovery order is severable as a final, appealable judgment, and that based on Article VII, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution, the discovery order must be “deemed final by law.”

“We conclude that The Star’s argument that the Discovery Order is severable as a final judgment is a reprise of the ‘distinct and separate branch doctrine,’ which our Supreme Court repudiated in Berry v. Hoffman, 643 N.E.2d 327, 329 (Ind. 1994), a doctrine which has been superseded by the requirement that the trial court ‘direct the entry of final judgment’ under Trial Rule 54(B),” the order says. “Thus the Discovery Order cannot be considered a final, appealable judgment under Appellate Rule 2(H)(1) because it did not dispose of all claims as to all parties and cannot be considered a final, appealable judgment under Appellate Rule 2(H)(2) because the trial court did not expressly determine that there is not just reason for the delay and direct the entry of the Discover Order as a final judgment as to fewer than all the claims or parties under Trial Rule 54(B).”

Judge Rudy Pyle dissented, writing, “The majority ably argues that Indiana Trial Rule 54(b) and the rule announced in Berry … permit shoehorning The Star into this litigation as a party. However, I submit that the shoe does not fit.”

He argued that due process interests should trump concerns about expediting litigation.

“It seems unreasonable to expect a non-party to seek appellate review using a Trial Rule designed for parties,” he wrote. “Preventing The Star from seeking appellate review of a new court order seems to change the rules of the road.”

The stay ordered by the court remains in effect until Friday, after which it will automatically expire.
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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