published Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Shelby County Commission seeks identities of newspaper commenters

The Shelby County Commission has filed a subpoena in federal court asking for the identities of all online commenters in The Commercial Appeal's stories about suburban plans to create their own school districts.

Editor Chris Peck called the request a "fishing expedition" and an unwarranted invasion of readers' privacy, and the newspaper's attorney, Lucian Pera, said he will resist on grounds the subpoena infringes on the work of the newspaper and the rights of readers.

Imad Abdullah, an attorney from the Baker Donelson law firm that is representing the commission in schools merger litigation, said in the subpoena the county wants first and last names, postal addresses and telephone numbers of all account users who posted comments, including comments the newspaper's digital media staff removed because they were racially charged or otherwise inappropriate.

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