The Houston Chronicle reports “the worldwide forum offered by the Internet ups the ante and consequences of everything from idle chatter to the information in public records.”
Dave Heller, staff lawyer for the Media Law Resource Center in New York, said anonymous bloggers and commenters might have “reason to pause in the current climate” because of cases around the country where judges have ordered their names revealed in court cases.
At the same time, he said, courts are trying to strike a balance between public access and privacy as their own records become more accessible. [….]
In Houston just this summer, the specific demands of the law smashed up against the Web in these instances involving speech and public records:
• • Two bloggers who posted their opinions or hosted the thoughts of others about Anna Nicole Smith’s mother were stunned when they were jailed for contempt of court for refusing to give the court their computers for forensic review.
• • A man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 4-year-old girl subpoenaed six local media outlets to learn the identities of 300 people who posted comments on news stories about the case.
• • Two judges issued orders to protect attorneys’ personal information from making its way onto the Internet even though it was public record.
• • As county records are loaded online, judges in family courts have requested some public records remain harder to get for now.