Anonymous Commenters Protected By First Amendment

The Times-Picayune › Staff

Former New Orleans Affordable Homeownership program head Stacey Jackson has not met the standard for overcoming the constitutional right to anonymous speech and therefore is not entitled to private information about online commenters, lawyers for | The Times-Picayune said in a court filing Friday (Feb. 28).

Jackson, who is facing federal fraud charges stemming from her time with the city-funded program focused on blight in New Orleans, is trying to unmask two anonymous online commenters she suspects of being federal law enforcement officials. Jackson has raised a variety of issues in her defense efforts, including selective prosecution based upon her race, alleged violations of grand jury secrecy rules and possible prosecutorial misconduct related to comments made about her case on

After reviewing sealed investigative reports into the online commenting scandal that led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and others, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson ruled that he would review information about two posters before deciding if Jackson is entitled see the data.

Attorneys for | The Times-Picayune are challenging that ruling. The news organization said Jackson has failed to establish that the commenters had any connection to law enforcement and is barred by constitutional protections for anonymous political speech from obtaining private information about them.