Daily 49er won't be required to release website commenter information

CALIFORNIA — A court order to release the e-mail and IP addresses of commenters on theCalifornia State University Long Beach’s Daily 49er website to UniversityPolice has been nullified.

University Police served the order, which asked for deleted comments postedto four articles on the Daily 49er website, to former Editor-in-ChiefJoanne Tucker. The articles were about a Chicana Feminism Conference and theassault of a transgender student on campus, Tucker said, but police would nottell her the nature of their investigation.

Initially, Detective John Leyva of University Police asked Tucker toprovide him with the text of the comments that had been removed.

“From my knowledge of media law, it didn’t sit well with me,” Tucker said.”So I told him I was pretty sure he had to get a court order for thatinformation, that I wasn’t going to just give that to him.”

University Police did not respond to requests to comment.

On May 11, Leyva provided Tucker with a court order for the comments.Tucker said she found multiple elements of the order concerning, including anondisclosure requirement, an illegible signature by a judge that didn’t includethe judge’s name printed and the fact that there was no case number or affidavitnumber. Tucker said Leyva told her to ignore the date on the order, whichrequired compliance on or before May 10, a day before it was served.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, saidthe law allows for police to subpoena such records from website hosts, includingnews organizations, only in limited situations, suck as where the record itselfproves guilt.

“The purpose of [the law that offers subpoenas] is for when we know thereis a completed crime, we can find out who did it,” Goldstein said. “In thiscase, the police just wanted information about someone who might do some wrongeventually… If you don’t know what was said, why would you care who saidit?”

Tucker spoke with Goldstein several times and worked with SPLC VolunteerAttorney Chris Ridder of Ridder, Costa & Johnstone in San Francisco.

“I really wanted to make sure that we were setting a precedent withUniversity Police in how they go about dealing with media on campus when itcomes to these types of issues,” Tucker said. “It was really about setting aprecedent in general with the school.”

On June 23, Tucker, the University Police chief and the university’sgeneral counsel signed an agreement that the order was null and void. Tuckersaid she is pleased with how things have turned out.”I didn’t want Daily49er readers to think that we were gathering this kind of information… [to] just hand that info over to police, I didn’t want to break that trust wehave with our readers,” Tucker said.Brian Cuaron, the currenteditor-in-chief for the Daily 49er, said he doesn’t intend to giveUniversity Police the deleted comments and is currently trying to verify that ajudge actually signed the court order and which judge signed it.