Victory for Anonymous Internet Speech

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued the first ruling ever under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP statute.  The Court ruled that an individual who is denied protection under the statute by a trial court may immediately appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals.  Then the court ruled that the plaintiff in this case, Susan Burke, was not entitled to subpoena information that might help her determine the identity of CIR’s anonymous client.because she failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of her defamation claim.

The Court of Appeals agreed with CIR that human rights attorney Susan Burke is a “limited purpose public official.” Accordingly, it was not enough for Burke to show that CIR’s client made an error in editing a webpage about her; her subpoena forcing disclosure of his identifying information could only be enforced if she also showed that he acted with malice.