On Monday a local Judge denied Philip Klein's petition to take the depositions of Google and Beaumont attorney Brent Coon, effectively ending the political commentator's three-year crusade to unmask two area bloggers.
Through his companies, Klein filed the petition against the Operation Kleinwatch and Sam the Eagle blogs, as well as Google and its subsidiary, blogger.com, on Aug. 26, 2009, in Jefferson County District Court.
Klein alleged Operation Kleinwatch and Sam the Eagle engaged in a pattern of libel and defamation, invasion of privacy and use of copyrighted images.
In his petitions, Klein claimed the bloggers defamed him by posting a parody of Dog Fancy magazine in which he was depicted under the caption, "Fat Men Who Love Their Dogs Too Much."
Nonetheless, on Jan. 30 Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, denied Klein's verified third amended petition, ending his efforts to investigate claims.
"This ruling reaffirms the important principle that disgruntled public figures may not abuse pre-suit discovery to ferret out personal information about the people who criticize them," said Jeffrey L. Dorrell, a Houston attorney who defended the bloggers, in a press release.
"This case was, from first to last, Klein's attempt at an end-run around the law to destroy the privacy of people he dislikes—if Klein actually believed he had viable claims against the blogs, he could have filed a suit on the merits at any time."
In an email to the Southeast Texas Record, Klein wrote "Mr. Dorrell is being untruthful in his press release and skews the facts to the public regarding the impending lawsuit."
Klein said his attorneys are appealing the ruling and are currently in the process of filing suit against Neil Harrison, Brent Coon & Associates and law firm employee Shon Hodgston.
The battle with Google began when Klein sought pre-suit depositions from Google to reveal the bloggers' identities. Represented by Beaumont attorney John Morgan, Klein intended to initiate a full-blown lawsuit once he learned the bloggers' identities, court records show.
In 2010, Judge Floyd ruled in Klein's favor and ordered the Internet search engine to turn the information about the blogs over to Klein.
After Floyd's ruling, Dorell filed a petition for writ of mandamus in Beaumont's Ninth Court of Appeals, arguing that Floyd's decision violated the First Amendment rights of the two bloggers.
The appeals court denied the writ, so the bloggers took the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which granted an emergency stay of Floyd's order.
On April 15, the Supreme Court ruled that Floyd abused his discretion when he ordered Google to identify the bloggers.
Klein then amended his pleadings to name local attorney Brent Coon and two others as co-respondents, claiming he had emails implicating them.
In the meantime, the Supreme Court sent the suit back to Floyd's court for an evidentiary hearing, which Dorell claim Klein delayed "with last-minute cancellations six times."
But Klein claims the delay was on both sides, "as Mr. Dorrell and Mr. Morgan both had illnesses and trial dates conflicted with the dates for the hearing."
The hearing was finally held on Jan. 13.
"Although the purpose of the hearing was for Klein to present evidence of his claims, Klein presented no evidence of any allegedly defamatory statements, no evidence of any invasion of privacy, no evidence of the 'emotional distress' he claimed to have suffered, and no evidence of the alleged copyright infringement," Dorell wrote in the press release.
Coon is represented by Beaumont attorney Jason Cansler.
Houston attorney Dennis Lynch represents Google.
Case No. E184-784