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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which our Supreme Court repudiated in Berry v. Hoffman, 643 N.E.2d 327, 329 (Ind. 1994), a doctrine which has been superseded by the requirement that the trial court ‘direct the entry of final judgment’ under Trial Rule 54(B),” the order says.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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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