Comments by WJMcM

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Posted on December 23 at 2:19 p.m.

I am very familiar with the California anti-SLAPP statute. I did not intend in my post to suggest that I am in favor of inhibiting anyone’s free expression. In this country, thankfully, anyone can say or write anything they want about anyone they want whenever they want, within, of course, certain legal restrictions. The two points I was attempting to make are 1) that the laws of libel are not suspended on the Internet and 2) that anonymity may not be as absolute as you think it is. I am personally familiar with a case involving two physicians down in Los Angeles who identified and sued several authors of anonymous posts that they considered defamatory on a Los Angeles Times columnist’s blog.

I am a firm believer that temperate speech is always preferable to intemperate speech. I found certain comments about Ms. Hopkins to be, at the very least, intemperate. Given the obvious heightened emotions in this case, there may well be people out there who are considering making equally intemperate comments about Ms. Ronzone. I should also add that I have absolutely no expectation that adherents of either side will be swayed by any of the points I am raising. They are merely intended as my own observations.

In hindsight, I realize I ignored my own admonition against intemperate speech when I used the phrase “smell blood in the water” in my previous post. It was intended ironically, as a joking reference – a lame joke, I admit – to stereotypical public perceptions about the supposed rapacity of the legal profession. I should have remembered that, while the laws of libel may not be suspended on the Internet, the laws of ironic expression invariably are.

On Juan Crow Lands in S.B.?

Posted on December 23 at 7:55 a.m.

@professorate, I have no dog in this fight, as they say, and I am somewhat late in coming to the discussion, but you should know that your negative comment about Ms. Hopkins' teaching abilities is potentially actionable. Even though you do not refer to her by name in your original post as an "incompetent teacher," your subsequent post makes it clear that you are referring to Ms. Hopkins. Many people make the mistake of thinking that anonymity on the Internet equates to invisibility. There is a significant body of case law in which anonymous posters have been identified and sued for defamation. I am sure Ms. Hopkins' attorneys are monitoring message boards like these on a regular basis for potentially libelous statements against their client. Just a cautionary note in case you are unaware of it.

Anecdotes (whether true or false) about alleged parental unhappiness with Ms. Hopkins do not constitute compelling evidence of her performance as a teacher under the law. The exact same thing applies to Ms. Ronzone. Anecdotes (whether true or false) about alleged parental unhappiness directed at her do not constitute compelling evidence of her performance as a principal under the law. In either case, you would need to present evidence such as a history of unsatisfactory annual evaluations, suspensions for cause, unauthorized absences, etc., etc., to prevail.

One of the things I find most interesting about this case (other than the underlying legal arguments) is the fact that Ms. Hopkins is being represented by the same law firm that represents Ms. Wendy McCaw (and which just this week won a very significant appellate court ruling in her longstanding suit against the former News-Press reporters). Typically, in my experience, firms like these do not accept such cases -- presumably on a contingency fee basis (I have no idea how much teachers make today, but I assume that Ms. Hopkins is less wealthy than Ms. McCaw) -- unless they believe there is a very high probability that they will prevail. As the tired old saying goes, they must smell blood in the water.

On Juan Crow Lands in S.B.?

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