Subpoenas allowed in AutoAdmit suit

This should be interesting.

(No, I don’t feel like writing about this anymore. Hopefully the reasons behind that sentiment are obvious enough. If you have no idea what I’m talking about or what AutoAdmit is, here are some posts, in chronological order, to get you all up to speed):

One: The first time I discovered AutoAdmit.
Two: The Washington Post discovers AutoAdmit; I respond, the AA board flips out.
Three: I respond again.
Four: Zuzu explains why this is important.
Five: AutoAdmit’s dude in charge loses his job offer.
Six: No, I had nothing to do with it. Nor with “leaking” the story to the WSJ. Nor with this suit. Still don’t (although I certainly wish them the best).
Seven: AutoAdmit gets itself sued.
Eight: The usual suspects think that female law students are just being whiny.

I hesitate to post this at all, because as far as I know my name no longer comes up on the AutoAdmit boards, and I’d like to keep it that way (also, because my memories of AutoAdmit are not particularly pleasant ones, and I’d kind of like to pretend that the whole thing never happened). But it is news, so there you have it.


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31 comments for “Subpoenas allowed in AutoAdmit suit

  1. January 31, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Finally.

    I have to admit, i find it very odd that YLS hasn’t been cooperative. Obviously a different regime down the hill from where i was, but I can’t imagine a student in my school making those kinds of statements without a concerted effort being made to find the identity of the student and take some kind of action.

    In my time there, “scandals” of far less malicious weight were taken much more seriously. I think part of it has to do with an awareness that as a professional school, Yale Div is in the business of certifying people as professionals, capable of upholding the ethical requirements of their work. Creating such a hostile environment, targeting people out of the blue for libel and hate…would be a betrayal of the power invested in clergy.

    But isn’t that a parallel with law? Shouldn’t it be?

  2. January 31, 2008 at 2:21 am

    I am flabbergasted that the originators of the “remarks” have not been DRUMMED OUT OF LAW SCHOOL.

    I know of two instances where women professionals have lost their jobs because they did things like posed nude for life-drawing classes (which there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with on ANY level), and Dudes who have made comments THIS PSYCHOTIC aren’t tossed out of school?

  3. ACS
    January 31, 2008 at 3:48 am

    I’m glad about the particular outcome of this particular subpoena, but I’m nervous about this getting to an appellate court and becoming a precedent. Robust anonymity–both in its technical application and in the court’s willingness to pierce the veil–helps the weak against the powerful more than it helps the powerful against the weak.

    I hope the subpoena is mooted (by finding out who these assholes are) before an interlocutory appeal makes this a stronger precedent.

    — ACS

  4. louise
    January 31, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Hang in there, Jill.

  5. Kristen
    January 31, 2008 at 10:07 am

    To echo Sly: Finally.

    Let’s hope these dirtbags are identified quickly. Of course I’m still hopeful that some criminal charges might be filed. I think their actions would constitute stalking or failing a stalking statute, terroristic threatening.

    ACS –

    I don’t think this would be such a bad precedent. We should protect anonymity, BUT not when it comes to illegal or tortious acts.

  6. January 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Robust anonymity–both in its technical application and in the court’s willingness to pierce the veil–helps the weak against the powerful more than it helps the powerful against the weak.

    That’s an interesting assertion. I must admit that I see no reason off the top of my head why that would be true in general. I readily agree that anonymity in the case of whistleblowers (that is, anonymity used to shield those who reveal illegal actions that had been done secretly) does that, but I’m not so sold on anonymity in general.

  7. January 31, 2008 at 11:28 am

    A few small clarifications are in order:

    1. AutoAdmit’s “dude in charge” did not lose his job offer. AutoAdmit’s employee lost his job offer.

    2. AutoAdmit itself has never been sued.

    I’m not interested in debating opinions about the suit, nor the subpoenas, nor anonymous speech. Reasonable minds can differ on those issues. However, I wanted to clarify the facts for you and your readers.

  8. Betsy
    January 31, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I hope those cowardly rape-fantasists are revealed to everyone they know as the pathetic woman-fearers that they are.

  9. Hector B.
    January 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I feel like someone has lifted a rock to expose a bunch of squirming worms. I wonder how many other lawyers/law students would speak of women that way, if granted the cloak of anonymity.

  10. Jade
    January 31, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I’ve only discovered Feministe recently and so I wasn’t around for this last year, but reading over it has made me decidedly nauseous. I can’t imagine how awful that was for you. I’ve been around message boards and other Internet communities for years, and I know how ugly it can be, but this really takes the cake. I’d say I’m sorry, but the only people who should apologize for this are the jerks who created this contest.

    I’m going to read more after taking a break so I can stomach it.

  11. bmc90
    January 31, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    You would certainly think that any law school’s code of student conduct would forbid some of the conduct alleged in the suit. The real cheesecake would be if these jokers lost their licenses to practice, if they have them already.

  12. lisa
    January 31, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    i think publishers should be held more accountable than they are. it shouldn’t matter who said it if the publishers created a community that not only condoned but encouraged web sexual harassment.

  13. Emily
    January 31, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Seriously. If I ran YLS I would have turned over absolutely whatever they asked for. These people should not be members of the bar. Anywhere. Ever.

  14. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    I have to admit, i find it very odd that YLS hasn’t been cooperative.

    If I ran YLS I would have turned over absolutely whatever they asked for.

    I wouldn’t, not unless I had pretty good proof that one of my students had actually done something. Not without a subpoena.

    Sounds like they wanted a subpoena of the ISPs all along, but had to show that the schools wouldn’t cooperate on their own.

  15. human
    January 31, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    But Zuzu, if you were YLS and went and looked at the computer records or whatever and found out that your students HAD posted this stuff, then you’d have proof they had actually done something, wouldn’t you?

  16. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I’d still want to be under subpoena.

  17. January 31, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    But Zuzu, if you were YLS and went and looked at the computer records or whatever and found out that your students HAD posted this stuff, then you’d have proof they had actually done something, wouldn’t you?

    Well, and to be fair, only some of the posters were nasty. A lot of people were posting totally benign things on that board, and as much as I really dislike the handful who posted harassing and threatening comments, I wouldn’t want to see everyone on the board get caught up in this.

  18. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    It’s also a question of resources — if you respond to every single request for information that comes down the pike, you’re going to waste a lot of time looking for records. But if you wait until the court compels you to do so, then you only respond to stuff that’s actually going to be used in a court case.

  19. Emily
    January 31, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I understand a general policy of not responding to requests unless there’s a subpoena, but when your own students have been targeted in this manner, I think you’ve got a unique situation that calls for a departure from standard procedure.

    I think you owe your own students more. Including, for example, a safe environment in which to learn the law. Given the threatening nature of the posts, and the strong suggestion that some YLS classmates were involved in making and giving teeth to those threats (by, say, photographing one of the female students at the gym/posting about having seen the person at a particular place/time), I don’t see how a female student could feel safe in school if the school doesn’t take a strongly supportive, vocal stance. Maybe Yale did, but I sure didn’t hear about it.

  20. January 31, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Put the buggers under supoena and see if they can still hold to their actions. We shouldn’t give them a break because of YLS. All are equal under law.

  21. January 31, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    A subpoena of such records is not as hard to get as you might think.

  22. ACS
    January 31, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    That’s an interesting assertion. I must admit that I see no reason off the top of my head why that would be true in general. I readily agree that anonymity in the case of whistleblowers (that is, anonymity used to shield those who reveal illegal actions that had been done secretly) does that, but I’m not so sold on anonymity in general.

    The powerful have access to the courts. The weak do not. The powerful issue subpoenas; the weak respond to them. The powerful can afford to bring SLAPP lawsuits; the weak have to spend tremendous amounts of resources responding to them.

    You can “win” against an anonymous critic without “winning” a lawsuit.

    — ACS

    — ACS

  23. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    I think you owe your own students more.

    The school has a responsibility to the defendants as well as the plaintiffs, particularly because the plaintiffs haven’t yet proven their claims.

    ACS, subpoenas work both ways. And the weak have access to the courts as well. They just don’t have the resources to absorb legal costs, which are considerable, even if you’re not a party and just have documents in your possession.

  24. February 1, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I hesitate to post this at all, because as far as I know my name no longer comes up on the AutoAdmit boards, and I’d like to keep it that way (also, because my memories of AutoAdmit are not particularly pleasant ones, and I’d kind of like to pretend that the whole thing never happened). But it is news, so there you have it.

    There is no reason you should be intimidated by AutoAdmit. Yes, I know they are creepy and potential stalkers. I pissed off the AutoAdmit geeks and got dissed on their site. Anthony Ciolli emailed me saying the Jill stalking comments don’t really reflect AutoAdmit. These clowns get scared when they are exposed.

    AutoAdmit posters pretended to be the two woman that spoke out against AutoAdmit on Good Morning America. One of the ladies emailed me and told me the comment, oin my blog comments, wasn’t written by her. I deleted the comment.

    I haven’t experienced the harassment Jill did. I do know the AutoAdmit posters come down hard on people they disagree with. They attempt to control public perception by discrediting women and intimidation.

    I’m not a lawyer. AutoAdmit maybe able to use the First Amendment as a defense. The legal system is becoming harsher on internet harassment, because of the problems with Myspace. There was a case of Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee issuing subpoenas to LeoAffairs.com. Law enforcement officers were posting anonymous complaints about problems within the department. Gee lost on appeal.

    The 2nd District Court of Appeal did not provide a reason for the denial, so it is unlikely the case can move to a higher court.

    “That means they could find absolutely no error with either the conclusions reached by the lower court or any of the reasoning,” said Luke Lirot, the attorney for leoaffairs.com, a privately run sounding board for law enforcement officers who want to discuss their departments.

    Previous judges ruled that anonymous speech, including posts on a Web site, is protected by the Constitution.

    My bad experiences with AutoAdmit aside, I am concerned about employers, law enforcement and schools being able to access ISPs. The privacy issues aren’t clear cut. If there is a clear cut crime (child pornography for an example) then absolutely. I don’t want law enforcement going on fishing expeditions.

  25. Emily
    February 1, 2008 at 9:35 am

    What is the school’s responsibility to the defendants? (serious question – I want to think about it and consider it)

    I can understand the school’s responsibility to itself not to go flying off the handle, be wrong, and end up civilly sued itself a la Duke, but I can’t formulate for myself the responsibility to the defendants. I mean, if no defendants were Yale students using Yale IP addresses, then Yale disclosing information wouldn’t hurt them. The defendants are not all people who visit the message board, but people with identified aliases who posted really horrible stuff. Is it that the school has a duty to students who might be erroneously identified as defendants for some reason?

    And, btw, I do understand that sometimes a subpoena is a bit of a formality that one needs for CYA purposes. And certainly, if I were the school’s lawyer, I would advise them to wait for a subpoena. But as Dean or other figurehead, I think some sort of more vocal stance is necessary. This is a student who doesn’t feel safe in school because of a campaign of harassment that some of her colleagues most likely participated in. I don’t think it has to be proved in court for the Dean to take action.

    Perhaps current students know more about what YLS did in the immediate aftermath. Perhaps if I was there I would defend the school as having responded appropriately. But as a recent graduate, all I’ve heard is what’s in the paper, which does not appear particularly supportive.

  26. February 1, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Freedom of speech is fine. I even like the boldness that comes from Internet anonymity. However, the stalking is beyond the limits as the women are not public figures.

  27. ACS
    February 1, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    ACS, subpoenas work both ways. And the weak have access to the courts as well. They just don’t have the resources to absorb legal costs, which are considerable, even if you’re not a party and just have documents in your possession.

    As an attorney, you know full well that that’s not true. Meaningful access to the courts is necessarily mediated by an attorney. Eliding costs that frequently exceed annual incomes is an argument similar to the argument that both the rich and the poor are forbidden to sleep under bridges.

    This is a fight between people with an enormous amount of privilege, so the underlying issue is obscured, but in general people with Yale Law degrees, or the financial wherewithal to attend Yale Law, don’t need the right to anonymous speech: they can afford to defend themselves.

    It’s people like this or this or this that need that protection.

    — ACS

  28. Ms.Feasance
    February 10, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Reminds me of this phenomenon.
    The only things more lowbrow than Autoadmit are YouTube’s Comments Pages.

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