By DEBBIE GALANT
Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Vena has temporarily quashed subpoenas issued by the Montclair Board of Education demanding that Google and others reveal the identity behind a commenter posting pseudonymously as “Assessmentgate” on Twitter, Facebook, BaristaKids and Patch.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, acting on behalf of Assessmentgate, brought a lawsuit against the Montclair Board of Ed, asking for injunctive relief, saying its client would be irreparably harmed by the release of his identity. In a statement yesterday, the ACLU also mentioned a subpoena issued to BaristaKids.
Vena will bring the parties back to discuss the merits of the case on Jan. 9.
For the time being, according to the judge’s order:
– the subpoena to Google “is temporarily stayed and quashed”
– other subpoenas seeking Assessmentgate’s identity are “temporarily stayed and quashed”
– the Board of Ed has been ordered to provide the ACLU with all subpoenas that reference Assessmentgate within 24 hours of their issuance
– the Board of Ed has been enjoined from issuing further subpoenas “commanding information” about Assessmentgate’s identity.
Although free speech was infrequently mentioned within the court hearing, and press rights not at all, Jeanne LoCicero, deputy legal director of the ACLU-NJ, afterwards reiterated that the “issue is about free speech and open dialogue.” She added that online news sites offer “robust forums” for public dialogue, and that there’s a “rich tradition of anonymity in public debate.”
The Board of Ed said it issued the subpoenas as part of its investigation of the leaking of tests — or assessments — that it said were developed to bring NJ into compliance with state mandates. Attorney Richard Rudin added that the exposure of the tests in October cost the district half a million dollars.