BUFFALO, NY - A judge has quashed a subpoena filed by the Hamburg Central School District, seeking computer records in order to identity a blogger who has often been critical of district administration, and who published excerpts from a secretly recorded closed-door meeting of the school board.
A person calling himself or herself "Concerned Hamburger" maintains the blog site, Hamburg Educational Ethics.
The attorney for Concerned Hamburger, Joseph M. Finnerty, successfully argued before State Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin, that granting the subpoena would violate his client's First Amendment right to anonymous speech.
Concerned Hamburger, as noted by Finnerty, is not accused of participating in the recording of the meeting , and only published brief portions of what was discussed after a recording was sent to them anonymously.
In arguing to quash the subpoena which sought the identity of the blogger, Finnerty reminded the judge that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a dim view of attempts to curtail anonymous speech, while noting the Federalist Papers themselves were published anonymously.
An attorney for the school district, however, said that the subpoena had nothing to do with trying to curtail free speech rights.
"That's not what this is about, said Richard Sullivan while arguing in court. "They can blog their brains out, for all we care."
Rather, Sullivan told WGRZ-TV, the purpose of the subpoena sought by the district, was to gather any information it could, as it proceeds with a lawsuit against three persons it accuses of having participated in the recording of the meeting.
Sullivan also strongly denied accusations that the subpoena was filed in an attempt to intimidate the blogger, and stifle their writings as some have suggested.
While granting the motion to quash the subpoena, the judge denied a motion by Finnerty to have the district pay Concerned Hamburger's court costs.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dave Harrington. Follow Dave McKinley on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2