Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Not surprisingly, a court has granted the motion of the plaintiffs in the AutoAdmit lawsuit for expedited discovery, including permission"to subpoena the Internet service-providers responsible for the posters’ IP addresses in order to identify them," as well as to depose Jarret Cohen, the insurance salesman who owns the Autoadmit cesspool, and Anthony Ciolli, the former Penn law student, who used to be an administrator of it. The plaintiffs will also seek to depose someone named Ryan Mariner, who is alleged to have pertinent information. (I don't know who Mr. Mariner is.) The WSJ Law Blog has the story and a link to the brief in support of the motion for expedited discovery.
As the brief notes at p. 16, "plaintiffs can easily demonstrate far more than 'some probability of success on the merits'" and so the only real issue is identifying the defendants. (Anyone with doubts on that score need only read this latest brief.) Since the plaintiffs are almost guaranteed to prevail on most or all of the libel, invasion of privacy, and infliction of emotional distress claims, the strategic question will be what to do once they have identified some of the defendants. If their identities become public, their careers as lawyers or law students are finished, which means their ultimate ability to compensate the plaintiffs for their grotesque wrongdoing may be extremely limited. To the extent the plaintiffs want cash compensation that may create an incentive to settle in conjunction with a confidentiality agreement; needless to say, it is in the interests of the defendants to settle once identified, since they will be dropped by their employers even faster than Anthony Ciolli if their identities become public.
Mr. Ciolli, of course, has been trying to whitewash his involvement in the site, although the brief tells a rather different (and, based on the evidence I have, far more accurate) story. On page 5, we learn, for example, that when one of the plaintiffs, Doe I, discovered that she was the victim of per se libel and threats of sexual violence on Autoadmit, she "sent several email messages to the site administrators, asking them to remove the offensive messages about her. Anthony Ciolli sent DOE I a response stating that the messages would not be removed." (If you want to see how profoundly revealing this is about Mr. Ciolli and his character, take a look at p. 4 of the brief to get the full flavor of the postings Mr. Ciolli declined to remove.)
So, too, at page 10 of the brief, we learn that Doe II--after being subjected to per se libel and threats of sexual violence at least as bad if not worse than what Doe I had to endure--"wrote to the site administrators multiple times, asking them to remove the offensive messages about her. In her requests, Doe II told them explicitly of the harm she was experiencing because of the harassing, threatening and defamatory postings, including that she had been forced to seek psychological counseling. The only response that Doe II received was a threat to post her requests on the AutoAdmit site."