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With Ciolli Out, AutoAdmit Suit Takes New Tack

The two anonymous female Yale law students who are suing the law school admissions forum AutoAdmit have dropped one defendant: Anthony Ciolli, the former University of Pennsylvania law student who once helped run the site. The women claim in their lawsuit that postings on the site threatened and demeaned them and interfered with their careers. Their lawyers filed an amended complaint Nov. 8 that drops Ciolli as a defendant. But at the blog Concurring Opinions, Dave Hoffman writes that the changes from the original complaint to this amendment extend beyond dropping Ciolli:

Plaintiffs' theory of harm seems to have shifted -- from one grounded largely in loss of employment, to one grounded largely in a tort (IIED/false light/defamation). Claims about loss of employment are gone, replaced by much more detail about the attempts by Board posters to harass the Doe plaintiffs. The result is a more streamlined theory of relief, coupled with a viable damages claim. Moreover, the complaint ties the XO board to an aborted attempt to set up a googlepages account to host a 'contest' ranking law student attractiveness. This would seem like a chink in defendants' anonymity shield.

At PrawfsBlawg, Howard Wasserman agrees with Hoffman that the amended complaint is stronger than the original, but he adds that the procedural aspects of the case make it "a walking civ pro/fed courts exam." For one, with Ciolli out, there are now no named defendants in the lawsuit; all are identified only by screen names. For another, the case raises various jurisdictional problems that could get it thrown out of federal court. "It will be interesting to watch how these procedural issues will play out as the plaintiffs try to find some identifiable defendants in the coming months," Wasserman says.

Marc J. Randazza is the Florida lawyer who represented Ciolli, and at his blog, The Legal Satyricon, he publishes Ciolli's statement upon learning the news. Ciolli says, in part:

Had I remained as a defendant, the only theory could have been rooted in a desire to overturn Section 230. As I was merely an employee of AutoAdmit, leaving me in the suit would have been akin to suing a Google employee for anything found on a web page hosted by that company -- even if Google was not responsible for the content. The weakness of that theory was apparent to me from the beginning, as were the ramifications of its unlikely success -- an explosion of liability for every internet service provider in America."

Further background on the case is available from the Citizen Media Law Project and Wikipedia.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 13, 2007 at 02:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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