As you might remember, Robert Kennedy Jr. has gone to court attempting to force Daily Kos to reveal the identity of one of our community members, who wrote a story critical of his attendance at a rally in Berlin organized and attended by Nazis. If you need to catch up, follow these links in order: here, here, here, and here. Angry Marmot wrote this excellent look into Querdenken—the organization that organized that Berlin protest and invited Kennedy to attend.
To summarize, Kennedy filed in New York. He claims that he has to know the identity of the community member in order to have someone to sue for defamation. It’s all a sham, an effort to dox the user (to “dox” someone means to reveal their identity), as shown by the fact that Kennedy hasn’t sued any of the media outlets that reported on the neo-Nazi rally, nor has he sued me for literally repeating the claims made in that community story. For whatever reason, Kennedy wants to know the identity of someone who criticized him anonymously, and is willing to spend real money to find out. We at Daily Kos are standing directly in his way.
The trial judge in New York was like “whatever” and authorized a subpoena compelling us to reveal all that information. The problem is, Daily Kos isn’t in New York. Neither are any of its officers. So Kennedy has to try to enforce the subpoena in California. The main case is still being litigated in New York and it’s on appeal, but the battle over the subpoena shifted to the Golden State.
The community member is now represented pro bono by the good folks at Public Citizen. They moved to quash the subpoena and got a Nov. 1 court date to hear the case. Kennedy then filed a separate, parallel action and asked the California court to force Daily Kos to respond to the subpoena, setting his own motion for a hearing on Sept. 7—apparently trying to keep the community member from having their day in court. So we then moved to get both cases heard at the same time on Nov. 1.
Kennedy’s lawyers were furious and filed paper after paper in California (and undoubtedly spent thousands and thousands of dollars in legal fees) attempting to have the subpoena enforced against Daily Kos now! Immediately! Even before anyone could be heard in court. But just this week a trial judge in California shot them down—twice—on consecutive days.
First, last Tuesday, the court agreed with us and rescheduled Kennedy’s petition to be heard on Nov. 1, the same day as the community member’s hearing, guaranteeing that both we and they can be fully heard. Second, on Wednesday, the same California court denied an effort by Kennedy to strike the community member’s motions on an absurd technicality. As the trial court made clear to Kennedy and his lawyers, this matter will be heard on the merits on Nov. 1 and the court will allow both Daily Kos and the blogger to be heard on all of our arguments.
Fortunately for us (and the First Amendment), California (as compared to New York) has adopted safeguards against doxxing anonymous speech, and our argument is that those California rules protect Daily Kos and the blogger from Kennedy’s vindictive exercise against one of our community members, the results of New York ruling notwithstanding.
Note that we haven’t stopped fighting in New York. We are appealing the New York Trial Court’s decision and we will argue strenuously that New York should adopt First Amendment safeguards like those we have in my home state of California and about a dozen others. Our appeal in New York is being prepared and should be filed (“perfected,” as the lawyers say) by the end of the month. New York appellate courts are slow-moving, and we cannot expect even oral argument on the New York appeal for about nine months to a year from now.
In any case, as I think everyone can see, there is obviously no compelling need for Kennedy and his anti-vaxxer, anti-science, and anti-health followers to dox that community member now, or ever. It’s clear and obvious that there will never be a defamation case even if their identity were revealed. As a public figure, Kennedy has no legal right to stifle criticism of his politics, which is why he’s never bothered suing any other media outlet for defamation, us and me included.
The facts are clear: Kennedy is one of the most dangerous anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists in the entire country. His quackery has likely killed people. He attended a rally organized and attended by Nazis. Kennedy wouldn’t prevail in a libel lawsuit even if he wasn’t a public figure. The truth is an absolute defense.
But remember, this isn’t a libel case. This is a weird vendetta case to reveal the identity of some random critic of his online. What kind of sick perverted mind would spend that kind of money to out some random person online? I guess the same kind of sick perverted mind that would kill people rather than see them vaccinated.
Kennedy has unlimited financial resources, so we wouldn’t be able to protect our community without your help. Thanks to everyone who has already contributed. Thanks to Public Citizen for waging an amazing defense of our community, pro bono. If you want to help fund these legal efforts against a dangerous, murderous conspiracy theorist, please click here. Also consider a donation to Public Citizen for having this community’s back.
“I don’t think scolding is the approach. There are these purveyors of misinformation out there, and they’re not just on the right. Robert Kennedy Jr. is one of the most notorious ones … [Biden’s] scolding the people that are being lied to as opposed to the liars” — Jake Tapper pic.twitter.com/KYWK7IYA4r
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 10, 2021
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