A Beaver County judge has ordered Treasurer Connie Javens to appear in court to explain why she has taken no further action in her lawsuit filed in 2016 against several anonymous public commenters on BeaverCountian.com.
Javens and her daughter, Renee Javens Zuk, filed a defamation lawsuit in May 2016 against BeaverCountian.com commenters aka John Q Taxpayer, thebigdigger, THE EXECUTIONER, Slicer, Courthouseconvicts and ConnieintheSlammer.
As part of their lawsuit, Javens and Zuk issued a subpoena against BeaverCountian.com for identifying information about the commenters.
Although this publication was not a named defendant in the lawsuit, BeaverCountian.com’s John Paul refused to comply with the subpoena and vowed to protect the commenters’ anonymity. John Paul subsequently invoked the Pennsylvania Journalist Shield Law — a law that protects a reporter who gathers news from being “required to disclose the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit.”
Senior Erie County Judge John Bozza ultimately agreed with BeaverCountian.com’s position that John Paul could stand behind the Shield Law to protect the commenters. According to BeaverCountian.com’s attorneys, it marked the first time in Pennsylvania that a new media reporter had invoked the Shield Law during litigation, and the first time any reporter had used the Shield to protect the identities of anonymous commenters on a news website.
After Bozza’s ruling, the case by Javens and Zuk came to a standstill until Feb. 7 of this year.
Beaver County Common Pleas Judge James Ross issued an order this month after reviewing the open case and finding “either minimal, or no, activity over a significant period of time.”
“If (Connie Javens and Renee Zuk) fail to appear for said conference or if (they) do appear and cannot show cause why the case should continue, the case will be terminated,” Ross wrote.
Ross noted that if Javens and Zuk can demonstrate why their lawsuit should not be terminated, he would issue a scheduling order to move the case through the courts.
The conference is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 6.
BeaverCountian.com’s limited involvement in the litigation ended when Bozza quashed the subpoena filed by Javens and Zuk, but it will continue to cover the case until it comes to a formal conclusion.
About BeaverCountian.com’s Legal Representation In The Case
Founded in the 1980’s in Baltimore, Offit Kurman is now one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the region. The group has a keen understanding of the importance of the intersection of law and technology, having recently expanded their attorneys with technology focused practices including intellectual property, data and cybersecurity, and privacy issues. With 120 attorneys on staff, the firm offers a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category. Offit Kurman’s twelve offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York City metropolitan areas, and markets including Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Northern Virginia.
Legal representation for the Beaver Countian was arranged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the world’s leading digital civil rights organization. The EFF was founded in 1990 to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows. The international nonprofit organization champions causes of user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. The EFF has lead litigation against the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program in conjunction with efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A staff member for the organization served as the “digital bodyguard” for Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, helping to secure source material provided to the reporter by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.