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Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Former Cooley Law School Student
A former law student from Thomas M. Cooley Law School has won a court case in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The court ruled in favor of the former student with a unanimous vote. The former student, identified as Doe 1, used his blog to complain about the school anonymously, according to ars technica.
Paul Levy, from Public Citizen, was the counsel for Doe 1. He said on Friday in a statement that the decision was a “mixed blessing for anonymous Internet speakers in future cases.” From February 2011 to May 2012, Doe 1 published a blog called “Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam.”
“The assertion by Thomas M. Cooley of its status as the second best law school in America is as ludicrous as asserting that I am the second smartest man in America,” Doe 1 wrote in 2011. “It would invite the type of backlash that Cooley experiences everywhere throughout the nation. Yet I would not go out and sue someone who has a different opinion, or in the extreme scenario, publicly lambasts me for my declaration and calls me the dumbest man in America.”
On July 14, 2011, the school filed a complaint against Doe 1 claiming that the student made “defamatory accusations” against it. Cooley subpoenaed Weebly, the host of the blog run by Doe 1, in August of 2011. A trial court initially ruled in the favor of Cooley, saying “per se slanderous statements are not entitled to First Amendment protection, and thus Cooley would not have to prove actual malice.”
With the ruling from the appeals court, Doe 1 can now move to dismiss the initial complaint filed against him.
“Also troublesome is the majority’s refusal to address the requirement, adopted by every other state appellate court to address the topic, that the plaintiff suing a Doe defendant give notice of the suit before anonymity can be taken away,” Levy added in the statement. “Without notice, an anonymous defendant may not know that a subpoena has been issued seeking his identifying information. Here, the law school critic learned of the lawsuit only because Cooley Law School issued a press release announcing it, which enabled Doe to go to court to block the subpoena.”