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Melvin v. Doe

An anonymous online newsletter accused a Pennsylvania state court judge of improperly lobbying the governor on behalf of a friend for a judicial appointment. Judge Melvin sued the web site operator for libel. The John Doe defendant argued that his anonymity should not be breached unless Judge Melvin could prove she suffered actual economic harm from the alleged libel. The trial court rejected this argument, but held that "plaintiff should not be permitted to engage in discovery to learn the identity of the Doe defendants until the Doe defendant has an opportunity to establish that, as a matter of law, plaintiff could not prevail in this lawsuit." The Court also said that a protective order should be entered to prevent disclosure of defendant's identity to third parties until the plaintiff prevails in the lawsuit. Doe recently filed a petition for review to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appealing the trial court's decision to require disclosure of Doe's identity to the plaintiff.

On March 1, 2002, counsel for the John Doe defendants in the Melvin v. Doe case filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Petition challenges the decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which had held that the John Doe defendants could not have appellate review of their anonymity rights until after their identities had already been disclosed by the courts. The Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal on August 20, 2002. The briefs of the John Doe parties in the Supreme Court are scheduled to be filed on September 30, 2002.

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