Attorney Attempts to Out Anonymous Bloggers in North Idaho Courtroom

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In a bizarre courtroom proceeding, an attorney tried to out three anonymous online commenters late last week.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports that Matthew Andersen began a hearing in a north Idaho courtroom by paging three commenters, asking them to step forward if they were sitting in the room. He then asked a bailiff to do the same in the hallway. Nobody came forward.

The stunt was part of a hearing to determine if a north Idaho Republican leader had the right to reveal the identities of three commenters on a blog, managed by The Spokesman-Review. Tina Jacobson claims that the bloggers defamed her, suggesting she stole money from the GOP.

The three commenters go by the names "almostinnocentbystander," "Phaedrus" and "OutofStateTater."

"Almostinnocentbystander" wrote: "Is that the missing $10,000 from Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina's blouse??? Let's not try to find out."

But attorney Duane Swinton, representing the Spokesman-Review, said, "The right to speak anonymously is protected by the First Amendment," and that revealing the identities of the commenters would undercut the free flow of information on the newspaper's website.