Huckster and chicken farmer Thomas Garrett has settled his lawsuit with The Hook, editor Hawes Spencer tells me. Garrett has agreed to have the case settled with prejudice (meaning he can’t sue the paper again) and, in exchange, they’ve agreed not to sue him. The good news is that this means we’re all off the hook—no longer am I compelled to turn over the identifying information for every reader of cvillenews.com. The bad news is that by dropping this case, it’s not possible to set the precedent that needed to be set, which is that bloggers functioning in the capacity of a journalist are deserving of the same legal protections as a journalist for the purpose of a subpoena. Basically, Garrett managed to waste a lot of people’s time and money over the course of five months, using the power of subpoena for the purpose of harassment, with absolutely no negative repercussions, other than reinforcing his public image as an unrepentant and incompetent buffoon. On the other hand, it’s a clear win—Garrett ran off with his tail between his legs, having to plead with the target of his lawsuit not to sue him.
I want to give particular thanks to the attorneys who worked tirelessly and selflessly (and for free!) in protecting all of our privacy: Paul Levy of Public Citizen, Josh Wheeler of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, and Rebecca Glenberg of the Virginia ACLU. I intend to make the most generous donation that I can afford to each of these organizations, which won’t even be close to covering their costs, but it’s a start.
At least one precedent has been set here: Journalistic bloggers won’t be bullied. The next time a jackass like Garrett is considering intimidating a blogger via a subpoena, thirty seconds on Google should reveal the folly of going down that path.