Paper Calls Broad Subpoena '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, which amounts to more than 9,000 online comments. "The amazing overbreadth of the subpoena leads our client to believe that this is either a fishing expedition, a form of governmental harassment or both," the letter, to Baker Donelson associate Imad Abdullah, says.