Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Off to a Bad Start - for a Blawgger.

They settled the case, dammit.
Look, I'm not generally a rubbernecker.  I don't slow down to look at car wrecks on the other side of the highway.  I don't join the crowds jostling for a better look at the EMT giving CPR or hang around to watch firefighters at work.  But this is one I've had my eye on.  
What I'm talking about here is the $50 million lawsuit brought by Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold and her daughter Sidney against the Cleveland Plain Dealer for outing them as "Lawmiss" who comments on the paper's website on news stories about, among other things, cases before Saffold.
The judge claims she isn't the one who uses her e-address and registration as Lawmiss to do the commenting.  Sidney says she does some.  Ah, but the lawsuit meant depositions.  Which meant Shirley would be required actually to answer questions about it all.  Under oath.  
My neck was turning elastic merely from the thought.  
Maricopa? Phooey.  Killer Keller? Bah.  We had our own here in the Honorable SSS.  I'd already written some. I was virtually guaranteed copy for the new year.  (My son, then a columnist for his college newspaper, got the same sort of enthusiastic glimmer when Dick Cheney shot his friend:  Copy we've got copy.)
And then they went and settled the damn case.  
Let's review.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer publishes stories on line, and provides a mechanism for readers to post comments, but first they have to register.  The registration information is, under the PD's semi-contractual terms, confidential.  Saffold, a judge, was a registered commenter using the name Lawmiss.  When Lawmiss said some critical things about the PD and its reporters, they went and dug up the registration information and outed her.  And since Lawmiss has not only been commenting on Saffold's cases, but also offering racist and other offensive comments . . . . Well, Lawsuit, Ho as nobody says.
But 50 million smackeroos?  Of course, it wasn't about the money.  It was the principle of the thing.  As it always is.  Saffold explains in the PD.
"There are times in your life when no matter the odds or the size of your opponent, it is important to stand up for what you believe -- rights of privacy, defending yourself and your family, and the ability of judges to act independent of outside influence," Saffold said.

"Having done so, Sydney and I are very happy to end our litigation after reaching a positive resolution with Advance Internet, including the proactive steps taken by Advance Internet to better protect all its online posters' privacy." 
Sure.  Like I say, not about the money.  It was all about the principle.  Apparently, the principle could be best served with a settlement.
I don't know how much the PD forked over.  But Advanced Internet, which hosts the registration information and improperly allowed the PD to get access to it and then out SSS with it, kicked in some.  The PD reports that AI funded a charity.
"I would like to thank Advance Internet for also funding a charitable donation in my mother's name to the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church choir," Saffold said. "This episode was very difficult for my mother to deal with in her last days and the donation to a cause that she felt strongly about means a lot to my family and me. We appreciate everyone who has continued to stand by and support us, including our attorney, Brian Spitz, who provided us with quality representation to bring this case to resolution."
A settlement is probably the right ending for the lawsuit.  But not much fun for this Blawgger.
Oh well.  The new year is young.


  1. I notice that she throws a publicity bone to her attorney as an after-thought, since he's among so many who offered their "support".

    How pampered judges are. The criminal defendants who stand before them usually have no one offering "support" other than their lawyer, and sometimes not even that. Yet she goes through a tiny fraction of the strife you face every day, to say nothing of what your clients sometimes face, and it's time for a $50 million lawsuit.

    And she was stupid enough to bring the strife upon herself, basically.

    Almost every other day of her life and "career", people are telling her how wonderful she is. That's what she's used to. So a hang nail becomes a federal case when it's the judges's ox that's being gored.

    How do you wake those assholes up? Jeff?

  2. smackeroos; an obscure legal term for money, generally US dollars.

    There's a lot about this situation that I find difficult to believe. For one thing I don't find it credible that the folks working at the Cleveland Plain Dealer (at any level) would bother to read comments left on a story, any story. Comments might be given a cursory scan for threats or blatant violations of posting rules, but that's about it. Other than that, why would the CPD care what one or even one hundred and one busybodies are saying about their articles and stories? CPD gets all kinds of screwballs that post comments. Lawmiss isn't going to stand out.

    Since the CPD did successfully get the secret identity of Lawmiss, and since Lawmiss is an AOL account you can be sure of two things. One, AOL talked. Two, AOL has deep, deep pockets and a whole bunch of attorneys on retainer to handle lawsuits just like this one. AOL is also a news service, in a sort of twisted way.

    The suit is settled, so there's no use crying over spilt blood. Like you, I would have liked to see this go to trial and then read the transcript. Complete with Amos and Andy comments. My only thought is that if Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold was Judge Samuel Steven Saffold and made some of those comments, the poor fool would likely have a price on his head from the NAACP.