Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Blogger Tracks Our Story

Posted by auroracitizen on October 24, 2011

Christopher di Armani likes to share his opinions online.

He recently offered his thoughts on the lawsuit here in Aurora. You might find his comments interesting.

One that seemed to  particularly summarized his position was;

She was a public official about whom the public has every right to comment.  Discussing how competently or incompetently she does her job is precisely the sort of thing that Freedom of Speech is for.  Public officials have no right NOT to be talked about.

We agree. As long as the comments are focused on performance of the duties that they were elected to execute, citizens have every right to comment. The good, the bad — and for some — the ugly.

You can read his entire post here.

http://christopherdiarmani.com/3938/freedom-of-speech/aurora-mayor-phyllis-morris-finally-drops-6-milliion-lawsuit-bloggers/

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Posted in Community Corner, Community Input, Leadership, Legal, Media, Politics | 1 Comment »

Aurora Banner Clarifies Their Coverage

Posted by auroracitizen on October 20, 2011

Kudos to the Aurora Banner for quickly responding to comments about inaccurate information in their recent coverage of the Morris lawsuit discontinuance.

An online story appeared which indicated the lawsuit alleged that comments made by the 3 named defendants had defamed council and staff.

The banner was quick to correct the story after it was pointed out their facts were incorrect with the following Editors Note:  This is a corrected version of a previous story. The source of the allegedly defamatory comments has been amended.

The case revolved around whether or not comments made by anonymous bloggers on a local issues blog were defamatory toward staff and council. The suit alleged Mr. Hogg moderated the blog and Ms Bishenden was a former moderator, while Mr. Johnson was a frequent poster. The suit does not allege Mr. Hogg, Ms Bishenden or Mr. Johnson made any defamatory comments themselves.

This is a sensitive issue within the Aurora community so it is essential that the facts presented are correct.

You can read the full article here.

http://www.yorkregion.com/news/article/1228774–morris-drops-blogger-lawsuit

Not sure whether the article was changed before it went to print, so a correction may be necessary there as well.

Posted in Legal, Media | 2 Comments »

Recent Supreme Court Ruling Has Applicabilty to Aurora

Posted by auroracitizen on October 19, 2011

A recent Supreme Court ruling also has some applicability to what has happened here in Aurora.

This case deals with a blog publisher who published hyperlinks to other internet content.

The plaintiff argued that by creating the hyperlinks they became a “publisher” of defamatory material.

The defendant argued a link is not an endorsement.

The lower courts agreed with the defendant — as did the Supreme Court.

This ruling crystallizes the position that publishers of blogs are not responsible for the content written by others when posting hyperlinks on their blog.

While publishing hyperlinks to other content is not exactly the same as allowing comments to be published — it certainly supports the position that publishers  are not responsible for the comments of others.

The Toronto Star reports on the decision here.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1072362–supreme-court-ruling-big-victory-for-internet-freedom?bn=1

Posted in Legal, Media, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Phyllis Morris Makes National Post

Posted by auroracitizen on October 19, 2011

Media coverage of the latest move by Phyllis Morris to file a discontinuance in her $6,000,000 lawsuit again 3 local citizens who criticized her online during the last election campaign has reached both local and national attention.

Megan O’Toole reports here. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/18/former-aurora-mayor-drops-blogger-lawsuit/

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | Leave a Comment »

Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on October 18, 2011

On Oct 17, 2011, almost 1 year to the date after stating a $6,000,000 lawsuit against 3 residents of Aurora, Phyllis Morris has discontinued her lawsuit.

A discontinuance by a plaintiff is exceedingly rare in civil proceedings. In essence, the plaintiff, who has brought the fight to the defendants, admits that he or she no longer wishes to prosecute her claim. Where a plaintiff discontinues a claim, it could be reasonably assumed that they have recognized that their claim was fatally flawed and without merit from the outset.

This discontinuance is a total victory for the defendants, and substantiates and supports the position they took throughout this litigation—that they did nothing wrong.

The discontinuance also ends the Appeals to Judge Brown’s recent rulings — which have now been accepted by Ms. Morris.

It was manifestly unfair that the defendants were put to the time and expense of legal fees at the hands of Ms. Morris, most especially in light of the fact that Ms. Morris used tax dollars to pursue them in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack intended to silence their efforts to hold her government accountable.

It is equally telling that Ms. Morris discontinued the litigation when she was called upon to fund it out of her own pocket rather than use taxpayer funds as initially intended. She was fully prepared to use town resources to support her private lawsuit, at the towns’ sole risk and expense to her sole potential gain, despite the fact that the Town’s Code of Conduct states clearly that “public office is not to be used for personal gain”.

While the defendants, Hogg and Johnson defended their principles with their own funds — Phyllis Morris did not.

Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned from this experience. Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right of all Canadians — but it is a right that will be attacked, and will need protection.

Unfortunately, it is another blemish on the good name of Aurora that the defendants were called upon to personally defend this right.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 33 Comments »

Morris Lawsuit Keeps Aurora (and herself) in the Public Eye

Posted by auroracitizen on August 21, 2011

One of the many definitions of irony is “incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is, or a situation or result showing such incongruity”. Truly the Phyllis Morris lawsuit is a perfect definition of irony.

Her alleged reason for beginning this lawsuit was because anonymous blog comments subjected her to “ridicule, hatred and contempt.”

However, in truth, it appears her own actions have damaged her reputation — well outside the boundaries of fair Aurora — far more than anything written in any local blog or newspaper.

Here’s another example of the coverage our former Mayor is generating for herself and our town.

Court of Public Opinion Renders Verdict in Phyllis Morris case: Guilty of Gross Stupidity

Phyllis Morris has gained a lot of notoriety since she lost her re-election bid to keep her job as mayor of Aurora, Ontario.  It was during that election that she got just a little too big for her own britches and started suing anyone and everyone who was related to a couple of blog posts she didn’t like. Read More

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 7 Comments »

Aurora and our Alleged Defamation Case Has Been the Subject of Considerable Debate

Posted by auroracitizen on August 16, 2011

More pundits are weighing in on the important subject — and they have consistently agreed with decision of the courts. This is reflected both in the media and with the numerous legal experts/commentators who have commented.

When it comes to political speech, freedom to express your opinion is paramount.

Generally it is accepted that making a defamatory comment about a politicians personal life seems to be widely accepted as out-of-bounds.

However, expressing a dissenting opinion about the conduct or actions of a politician is a right that needs to be protected.

Consider — the folks who have been named in the lawsuit and have been forced to finance the protection of their own good names and protect the rights of all Canadians to speak openly without fear of retaliation have themselves been attacked. Yet, when former Mayor Phyllis Morris launched a lawsuit, they were not accused of making any defamatory comments themselves.

Former Mayor Phyllis Morris just “thinks” they know who the anonymous posters are. And she turned the financial might of the Town of Aurora against 3 private citizens. Citizens just like you. Imagine if it was you who disagreed with former Mayor Morris.

But rather than buckling under, they have stood firm in their belief that Canadians have a right to criticize politicians. It’s part of our democracy — something many of our parents have fought and died for. Something worth fighting for again – this time in a Canadian court room — at personal expense

Here are a few more articles

Innovation Law Blog, University of Toronto
The Innovation Law Blog is an intellectual property and technology blog produced by the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy and the University of Toronto Technology and Intellectual Property Group (TIP Group). The blog features weekly editorials by University of Toronto law students and frequent pointers to news and outside commentary on intellectual property and related subjects.

This comparative is very interesting since it starts to demonstrates the difference in law between a comment that is truly defamatory — or simply hurts the feelings of a politician. A key difference many Morris supporters fail to acknowledge.

Centre for Innovation Law and Policy / TIP Group
LINK: http://innovationlawblog.org/2011/08/the-legality-of-online-anonymity-two-cases/

Striking a legal balance in anonymous online postings
Ontario court tackles free speech versus defamation, By Michael Geist, Ottawa Citizen Special

In this article, published in the Ottawa Sun and Montreal Gazette, the author makes the argument that before demanding that names be released, the onus is on the plaintiff to actually make a case that the posts were defamatory.

The court was therefore not asked to determine whether the posts at issue were in fact defamatory. Rather, it simply faced the question of whether it should order the disclosure of personal information about the posters themselves so that Morris could proceed with a defamation lawsuit.

The court rightly identified the core question as balancing “the competing interests of privacy, the public interest in promoting the administration of justice by providing the Plaintiff with the information sought to pursue her claim and the underlying values of freedom of expression and political speech.”

Moreover, the court emphasized that the posts involved political speech, which is particularly deserving of protection.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/internet/Striking%20legal%20balance%20anonymous%20online%20postings/5193062/story.html

ARMA International, Association focused on Records Management, Information Technology and Information Security

In this blog, referring to the Gazette articles they commented.

The Ontario Superior Court ruling in the case of Phyllis Morris vs. auroracitizen.ca provided a reminder of the value of court oversight in cases seeking the disclosure of personal information.

They also provided a good definition of what constitutes a prima facie case — something that is essential to understanding the decision.

It ruled that since Morris did not identify the specific defamatory words, she failed to establish a prima facie case [according to Law.com, a case in which “the evidence before trial is sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence presented at trial”] of defamation.

In plain English — that means Morris never established that she had actually been defamed. She just wanted names.

Had she proven defamation — they matter might have been different — but she neither stated what she felt had defamed her, nor did she actually provide any supporting evidence herself. Instead she let former Aurora staff member solicitor Christopher Cooper be the only person to provide any statement of any kind.

Read more: http://www.arma.org/policy/policy/canadianpolicybrief/11-08-10/Former_Mayor_Fights_for_Disclosure_of_Personal_Information.aspx

Phyllis Morris would like everyone to believe that she was defamed. That has never been proven. Nor has she even pled the words (as noted in the recent decision)

Phyllis Morris would like people to believe that the 3 defendants are bad people — yet this lawsuit was launched without even alleging that they had made any for the defamatory postings.

This case will be very important in establishing internet law for political postings and clearly people across the country are watching. It is unfortunate that 3 local citizens have been forced to fund this ground-breaking defence of our democratic right to free speech against a politician who was prepared to use town funds — your taxes hard at work — to fight this battle.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 4 Comments »

Globe & Mail Weights In

Posted by auroracitizen on August 5, 2011

Why faceless sniping deserves protection

Globe & Mail: Ivor Tossell, Aug 3, 2011

LINK: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/digital-culture/ivor-tossell/why-faceless-sniping-deserves-protection/article2118151/

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 4 Comments »

More Media Coverage

Posted by auroracitizen on July 31, 2011

Court grapples with legalities of anonymous online postings
Michael Geist, Internet law Columnist, Sunday July 31, 2011, Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1032104–geist-court-grapples-with-legalities-of-anonymous-online-postings

Posted in Code of Ethics, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 1 Comment »

Morris Launches Appeal

Posted by auroracitizen on July 30, 2011

We received word yesterday that Morris and her legal team have officially submitted the paperwork in support of their appeal.

The primary basis for their appeal is that it conflicts with the original Spence decision. Of interest, many legal pundits would suggest that Spence was the one who got it wrong.

Does this mean that if the Brown judgment is upheld — that Morris will concede that Spence was wrong?

October 27 appears to be the date Morris will ask the courts to hear her appeal — if they agree, then the actual appeal will be heard at a later date.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 3 Comments »