Friday, December 14, 2007

My Rights??....12/21

Had a comment tossed my way that set me a bit on edge:

That's all you have to say about the appeals court decision? How bout a shout-out and a way-to-go for the 6th court of appeals making a stand for your first amendment rights?

It isn't just my rights, it's everyone's. The court's decision was in line with what I had been saying, and the opinion was well within my comfort zone: That I had an expectation of privacy, that if sufficient proof was rendered, the privacy would be set aside, however, prior to that I would have a chance to refute the presented matters.

Maybe it is because I take it for granted that the opposite had me so riled. However, the ruling set things right and all's well with my personal corner of the judicial system.

Should Essent pursue the case? It's their right. But, with the legal commentary that I've received, and my lawyer's counsel, I really don't feel that the facts support an adverse judgment.

But that isn't Essent's goal. Their goal, through the whole matter, is disclosure of my identity and what recourse they might have outside the legal proceedings. Kind of who-are-you-and-how-can-we-make-your-life-miserable.

I'm criticized for bringing up Holly as an example, but she is a PRIME example of what Essent has done and is capable of. And, for merely being suspected of being me, several employees have been fired, or was that just used as a public excuse? IT functions have decreased with the centralized data management, so somewhat less experienced and knowledgeable staffing is required.

Contemplate this: What kind of a split can the Paris medical community sustain now? In their current state, what kind of fence-mending can Essent provide, or would they even try? Is this whole thing merely to cow possible dissidents?

So much for a corporate showplace.


Just the Facts said...

Dec. 13, 2007, 10:59PM
Court upholds Paris blogger's anonymity
Texas appeals panel says hospital must prove losses to unmask him

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — In a case that is setting a legal precedent in Texas, a state appeals court has ruled that an anonymous blogger can keep his identity secret for now.

The Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana ruled Wednesday that the operator of The-Paris-Site blog has a First Amendment right to anonymity in a defamation lawsuit unless the company that owns the Paris hospital can prove it has suffered actual financial losses due to his blog postings.

Essent Healthcare Inc., owner of the Paris Regional Medical Center, sued the blogger and nine of his anonymous commentors as John Does. The company claimed the blog had defamed the hospital and caused business losses.

Essent can take the case back to the district court to show actual damages or appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

'No singing yet ... '
Company spokeswoman Kim Fox said Essent will "pursue all available legal options." She said the company understands the court wants to balance First Amendment rights on the Internet.

"In the same way the court is being careful, we are being vigilant with our patients' private health information and are working hard to ensure that information is kept confidential," Fox said.

"It is equally incomprehensible that this same individual can publish false and misleading information damaging to the reputation of the hospital while hiding under the cover of anonymity."

The anonymous blogger responded by e-mail, calling the ruling "appropriate" because it protected his First Amendment rights while giving Essent an opportunity to prove its case.

"Should they (Essent) continue, I feel that the lawsuit will prove without merit," the blogger wrote.

On his blog, he posted a photograph of an opera diva with the caption: "While there's no singing yet, she's warming up in the wings."

Defamation suit
Since March 2005, The-Paris-site blog has been relentlessly critical of the business management and health care provided by the hospital.

The blogger identifies himself under pseudonyms of fac_p and Frank Pasquale. Most blog commentors — some of whom appear to be hospital employees — are anonymous.

Essent in June filed a defamation lawsuit in state district court against "John Does 1-10" for postings and comments made on the Paris blog, which the suit says has had 169,272 page views "from sites throughout the United States and the rest of the world" since it began. The lawsuit also claims patient privacy was violated under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Essent won a ruling from state District Judge Scott McDowell ordering Dallas Internet Service Provider Suddenlink Communications Inc. to release the blogger's name.

The blogger's lawyer, James Rodgers of Paris, appealed the ruling to the Texarkana court, claiming the order violated the blogger's First Amendment rights of free speech.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Justice Jack Carter agreed.

"The protections of the First Amendment extend to the Internet," Carter wrote. "Several courts have noted that Internet anonymity serves a particularly vital role in the exchange of ideas and robust debate on matters of public concern."

But Carter noted that the First Amendment "is not intended to protect unconditionally all forms of expression."

Carter said there is no Texas case law on how to handle defamation lawsuits against an anonymous blogger, but he cited cases from other states.

The appeals court vacated McDowell's order and told him to proceed under stricter standards.

At present, the appeals court ruling only affects Northeast Texas, but it will serve as a precedent for other such lawsuits if they are brought elsewhere in Texas.

R.G. got it right, except for one thing, that which caused financial loss has to be proven false.

sanders8927 said...


Anonymous said...

Here we go again with "Holly." Seriously, haven't we already beat that dead horse enough?

fac_p said...

I don't know, if you'd been threatened, had your spouse's job terminated, put your finances in freefall (with two or three kids at home)...all for trying to help, how would you feel? I can sympathize, can't you?

Anonymous said...

I still after all of this time do not know where there was a breach of privacy for the patients? I have never in all of the time I have read this blog seen a patient name, if there had been it would have been submitted by the anonymous contributors, not the blogger, therefore is not a breach of hippa laws. These contributions were many times made by the patients themselves in a third person state. If essent wasn't scared of the facts being drug out into the harsh light of day, maybe they should clean out the pig lot.
ANYONE who has been behind the scenes with essent or part of the staff of PRMC they know the total state of decay the morale has dipped to, the physical condition of the plant and how badly the public view of the hospital has plummeted the last few months.

The Sixth Court did just exactly the right thing.
Hooray for justice.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, if you'd been threatened, had your spouse's job terminated, put your finances in freefall (with two or three kids at home)...all for trying to help, how would you feel? I can sympathize, can't you?

I certainly can sympathize but this subjoect has been covered and debated before.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, if you'd been threatened, had your spouse's job terminated, put your finances in freefall (with two or three kids at home)...all for trying to help, how would you feel? I can sympathize, can't you?

I certainly can sympathize but this subjoect has been covered and debated before.

it just goes to show, whomever is paying attention, what essent is prepared to do to anyone that they consider a threat. First tried an underhanded way to get to the blog and when they were unsuccessful,then through the courts.

Here's to Frank!

Anonymous said...

Let’s not forget to mention how wicked and immoral hud and his bud are. These scoundrels do not need a reason to devastate innocent people. They are not above deceit or fabrication, their only objective is to protect their checkbooks and what is left of their reputation.

We should all be concerned about any of the wrong-doings of Essent, no matter how many times it appears in this blog, someone may need their memories refreshed.

We all have to look out for each other in our respective communities...isn't that the reason we have the blog?

Woot said...

Holly is just the visible symptom of the cancer that is eating our Paris Healthcare.
And if I were Holly I sued like hell. Talk about some defamation and slander!!!

Annonyomus said...

Keep up the good work James and Frank. One down many more to go. When Hud left under less than desirable circumstances,Essent should have gotten the point and done a complete restructuring. I wonder what an aduit of all of their facilities would have shown. Even the dollar signs will not show the damage to the many who had to go elsewhwere for jobs. This blog site did not ruin their reputation. Lack of employees, lack of supplies, and poor moral did that. Usually this starts at the top brass and flows down. Do they not realize that to pursue this lawsuit will only bring more attention to all that they do from now on? The pubilc is now aware of discontent on the part of all parties, even if they were not before. Their best move would be to let this go and make moves to make these two hospitals places that the public wants to be taken care of, not flee from.

Anonymous said...

I know most here may not appreciate comments from a different political persuasion than their own...but if you are so inclined, The Burnt Orange Report has an excellent synopsis of the ruling.

I thought so too, which is why I've had it in the blog lists (left column) since last week. But, shows you're motivated. Houston Chronicle did two pieces, one on the list, the other linked in the post...and R.G is the only one that asked for quotes (I do give them when asked)....frank

fac_p said...

Now if I can just get the people that were polled (90% for the appeals court verdict) to be in the jury pool.

Hopefully it won't even come to that. Judge McDowell has the say on the determination of justification. At this point I don't think I made his Christmas list, but one would hope that he would be fair--especially with several major newspapers, magazines, law reviews and the like--camped over his shoulder.

While it isn't as high-profile as the Cotton case, it does have its own following in legal circles.

One thing about the internet: Nothing is kept tucked away, in the dark, in the corner, any more.