A pharmaceutical company sued a number of John Does for defamation and related claims after statements critical of the company were posted on Internet message boards. Using information provided by Yahoo!, the plaintiff was able to trace two of the anonymous posters using the aliases “veritasconari” and “gunnallenlies” to a hedge fund, and sought discovery from the fund and its manager to disclose the identity of the parties involved. The deponents argued that Gunnallenlies and Veritasconari have a fundamental First Amendment right to speak anonymously, which cannot be overcome absent a “valid” cause of action, and that, in this case, Matrixx had failed to make a prima facie showing that the targeted postings were defamatory. The appellants also pointed out that Matrixx did not specify that Veritasconari was a Doe defendant or even mention Gunnallenlies in the complaint. The court, however, found that these parties lacked standing to raise a First Amendment objection. “The applicable issue in most cases is whether a plaintiff has standing to bring an action or whether a defendant may challenge an action against him or her – in either case, based on the asserted violation of a nonparty’s constitutional rights or the overbreadth of a statute…. Where a third party is brought into the litigation, typically through a discovery order, the anonymous plaintiff or defendant normally steps forward to oppose the disclosure of his or her identity…. The case before us, however, presents a different procedural posture: Here the litigants who are challenging discovery are not parties in the underlying action for which the discovery is sought, but instead are themselves the third parties in a lawsuit that may have nothing to do with them.” As distinguished from AOL [No. 40570, 52 Vir. Cir. 26 (Jan. 30, 2000), rev’d on other grounds, 261 Va. 350 (2001)] and Verizon [357 F.Supp.2d 244 (D.D.C. 2003), rev’d on other grounds, 351 F.3d 1229 (D.C. Cir. 2003)], there was not a sufficient showing of a “close relationship” between the deponents and Veritasconari/Gunnallenlies to satisfy the Powers v. Ohio exception. In addition, “Appellants have neither demonstrated nor even suggested that there is some ‘hindrance’ to the ability of Veritasconari and Gunnallenlies to protect their own interests.” Accordingly, the order compelling discovery was affirmed. Matrixx v. Doe, 138 Cal.App.4th. 872 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 2006).
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