The identities of two bloggers who launched a Web crusade against local political commentator Philip Klein are safe for the time being, as Texas' highest court issued an emergency stay Friday.
Klein sued the anonymous "Sam the Eagle" and "Operation Kleinwatch" blogs for defamation last August. On April 29, 172nd District Judge Donald Floyd ordered the Internet search engine Google to give up the names of the bloggers.
The writers appealed to the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals, but their appeal was denied in May. They then turned to the Texas Supreme Court to protect their identities, and were granted a stay in the proceedings on June 4.
"We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognizes the important First Amendment right to criticize public figures anonymously," said Jeffrey L. Dorrell, attorney for the bloggers. "This is an American tradition that goes all the way back to Benjamin Franklin writing commentary pretending to be an elderly widow named Silence Dogood."
The ruling was the latest in a suit in which Klein alleges that the bloggers defamed him by, among other things, a parody of Dog Fancy magazine in which he was depicted under the caption, "Fat Men Who Love Their Dogs Too Much," according case papers.
The Texas Supreme Court's ruling temporarily protects the bloggers' anonymity while justices consider further arguments.
"Satirical parody can be harsh, but if 'Saturday Night Live' got sued every time it made fun of Sarah Palin or Barack Obama, television would be a pretty barren source of amusement," said Dorrell. "And I can't think of anyone in southeast Texas who deserves to be made fun of more than Philip Klein."
On Aug. 26, 2009, Klein, who writes a blog on his website, The Southeast Texas Political Review, sued the two unknown individuals for defamation, alleging they were actively harassing him through their websites.
Klein also named Google as a defendant and subpoenaed the company in order to learn the bloggers' identities.
Klein is represented by Beaumont attorney John Morgan.
Dorrell works out of Houston and specializes in constitutional law.
Google is represented by attorney Dennis Lynch.
Supreme Court case No. 10-0366
Jefferson County District Court case No. E184-784