In 2005, a New Mexico judge appalled people across America by issuing a restraining order against David Letterman after a wacky woman accused Letterman of harassing her across the country through coded messages in his TV show. That restraining order was dissolved after it became obvious even to the judge that the allegations could not possibly be true. But a judge in Montgomery County, Maryland—a liberal bastion—recently did something similarly bizarre by jailing and issuing a restraining order against a lawyer, Aaron Walker, who represented a party sued by ex-terrorist Brett Kimberlin.
Blog posts that criticize a convicted terrorist for misuse of the legal system are protected under the Supreme Court’s decisions in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) and Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105 (1973), even if some outraged readers make death threats as a result. Judge Cornelius J. Vaughey needs a remedial course in the First Amendment.
Judge Vaughey also needs a basic tutorial on the Internet and what blogs are. As a chronicler of the court proceedings notes, the Judge “was clearly was technically ignorant of even basic facts about what Twitter is, in one instance point saying ‘He Googled you 500,000 times’ through the Tubes or whatever. The Judge had identified himself, earlier, as being ‘of the Royal Typewriter Generation.’”
Read the whole thing.
It’s reasonable to assume that Judge Vaughey will be reversed on appeal. He seems to have both the facts and the law wrong. Meanwhile, we need to keep shining the light of truth on Brett Kimberlin and his accomplices. Perhaps it’s time for another parole revocation hearing.
UPDATE–Eugene Volokh has something to say on whether or not the sort of blogging we are doing is protected speech.