Beaver County’s judges have formally recused themselves from hearing a lawsuit brought by elected Treasurer Connie Javens and her adult daughter Renee Javens Zuk against six anonymous commenters on the Beaver Countian. The two women filed the litigation back in April alleging defamation against the “John Doe” defendants.
An order of recusal was signed by President Judge John D. McBride today:
“It is hereby Ordered and Directed that all Commissioned Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County (36th Judicial District) are hereby recused from presiding over the above-captioned case. The District Court Administrator is Directed to contact the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to secure appointment of a Judge outside the 36th Judicial District to preside over this case to its conclusion.”
Treasurer Connie Javens and Renee Zuk issued a subpoena against the Beaver Countian in May seeking records which they could use to ascertain the true identities of pseudonyms: “thebigdigger,” “THE EXECUTIONER,” “Slicer,” “Courthouseconvicts,” “ConnieintheSlammer,” and “John Q Taxpayer,” who all left anonymous comments on this website.
Beaver Countian founder John Paul declined to provide the information to Javens and Zuk, and formally invoked the Pennsylvania Journalist’s Shield Law in court filings to help protect the commenters’ identities. Although not a named defendant in Treasurer Javens’ litigation, the Beaver Countian stands dedicated to maintaining a forum which provides local citizens the means to freely express dissent and engage in robust and open debate — including by exercising their Constitutional right to engage in anonymous speech.
The Beaver Countian is being represented in the matter by Philadelphia attorneys Brian Collins and Mark Gottlieb with the law firm of Offit Kurman. The legal representation was arranged for by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the world’s leading digital civil rights organization.
An attorney representing aka “John Q Taxpayer” has filed a 1,000 page motion seeking to quash the subpoena Javens and Zuk filed against the Beaver Countian, and is also seeking at least $10,000 in sanctions against the two women for their “vexatious conduct” in filing the “frivolous” litigation. An attorney for the remaining five “John Doe” defendants has separately filed a motion seeking to have the subpoena quashed.
About The Beaver Countian’s Legal Representation
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 is currently leading federal litigation against the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program.