On the Shelby Commission Subpeona ‘Fishing Expedition’

Attorneys for The Commercial Appeal said Thursday the law firm representing the Shelby County Commission has run afoul of the First Amendment, two federal statutes, the Tennessee reporter’s shield law and “just plain good sense” in a subpoena asking for the identities of commenters on stories about planned suburban school districts.
Memphis attorney Lucian Pera and Washington attorney Paul Alan Levy, a member of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, asked in a letter to the Baker Donelson law firm that it withdraw the subpoena request. The request was filed in federal court July 25, asking for the identities of all online commenters to 45 stories that ran between Nov. 19, 2010, and July 12, 2012.
In the letter, the newspaper attorneys said those stories produced more than 9,000 comments on The Commercial Appeal’s website and included stories that ran after legislation already was passed in the Tennessee legislature to authorize referendums on whether to set up independent school districts in six municipalities.

Meanwhile, TNReport says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is not happy with a Shelby subpoena for legislator email:
Sen. Mark Norris says he will comply with the Shelby County Commission’s requests for all correspondence dealing with the controversial Memphis-Shelby schools merger. But the Senate majority leader and chief architect of legislation dictating rules for combining the school systems thinks the demand is being made principally in the spirit of hassling him and other lawmakers.
“It is a major fishing expedition, but you know, knock themselves out. We’ll give them what we have,” said Norris, a Republican from Collierville, told TNReport this week.
Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission are asking the General Assembly to fork over any communication related to laws dictating rules for the merger between the two school systems as they assemble a case in court to block six suburbs from beginning their own school systems.
The commission is asking for documents dating back as far as 2010 relating to three laws dictating rules for the merger, namely SB25, SB1923 and SB2908.

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