by Paul Alan Levy
Nearly five years after he withdrew subpoenas to Google seeking to identify four anonymous bloggers who commented on his expulsion from a rabbinical council and his dismissal from his synagogue over allegations that he had abused his religious authority to have sexual relations with congregants, Orthodox rabbi Mordechai Tendler has issued a new subpoena to Google demanding identification of the same bloggers (plus one more). Invoking the First Amendment’s protection for the right to speak anonymously and the many court decisions holding that compelled identification is impermissible without compelling reasons, the bloggers have moved to quash the subpoena.
In the 2006 proceedings, Tendler contended that he needed to know who the bloggers were so that he could sue them for defamation over such posts as this and this. After Public Citizen and EFF teamed up to seek to have his subpoena proceeding treated as a SLAPP suit, Tendler withdrew those subpoenas, but the California trial court still awarded attorney fees against Tendler for forcing the bloggers to defend themselves. This award was overturned on appeal, because the court held that a subpoena proceeding in support of a lawsuit in a different state is not a "cause of action" subject to the anti-SLAPP statute. Tendler then issued a press release proclaiming that he was free to reinstitute the subpoenas to pursue his defamation claims.