A trial court in Arizona has quashed a subpoena served on Godaddy, issued by a plaintiff in a defamation suit against an anonymous website owner. Applying the standard articulated in the Delaware Supreme Court decision of Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (2005), the court held that the plaintiff had failed to present a strong enough case to overcome the defendant’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously. Under the Cahill standard, a plaintiff seeking to unmask an anonymous Internet defendant must put forth evidence sufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment before the court will order the identity to be revealed.
We’ve discussed this issue before — more than once. Although I am chary of the general proposition that Internet anonymity is an unalloyed good thing, this is a good policy: Where there is no defendant but a John Doe, as justified as it may be to file against unknown defendants in general, it is the court’s duty to make sure that the power of the court be utilized to obtain discovery in pursuit of a meritless claim.