In a very interesting case, Saffold v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., a state court judge (Shirley Strickland Saffold) is suing the Cleveland Plan Dealer for stating that comments posted on the newspaper’s website under the screen name “lawmiss” originated from a computer used by the judge and/or her daughter. Some of these comments related to cases before Judge Saffold.
As Kashmir Hill writes:
Sydney Saffold, 23, “a one-time law student” claims she made the comments associated with her mom’s account. . . . .
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is putting Saffold on trial. A public records request revealed that some of the articles involved were accessed on Saffold’s court-issued computer at the exact times and dates of three comments posted by Lawmiss.
Judge Saffold denies that she made any of the over 80 comments posted by Lawmiss on the cleveland.com website.
Here’s the Cleveland Plain Dealer story.
In her complaint Judge Saffold raises the following claims: fraud, defamation, tortious interference, breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and invasion of privacy.
Here’s my assessment of some of the claims raised (and not raised) in the complaint.
Invasion of Privacy. Invasion of privacy actually consists of the four Warren and Brandeis privacy torts, and the complaint appears to discuss two of them — public disclosure of private facts and false light. I don’t know enough about the facts to opine on the false light claim, but the plaintiffs will have a tough time establishing the public disclosure tort since the story is likely to be found newsworthy — of “legitimate concern to the public.” Whenever a story is newsworthy, plaintiffs cannot sustain an action for public disclosure of private facts.