A senior judge from Erie County has been assigned to preside over a lawsuit filed by elected Beaver County Treasurer Connie Javens and her adult daughter Renee Javens Zuk against six anonymous commenters on the Beaver Countian’s website.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court assigned Senior Judge John A. Bozza to preside over the litigation alleging defamation after Beaver County President John D. McBride recused the local bench from hearing the case.
Judge Bozza is not new to presiding over lawsuits involving officials in Beaver County, having been appointed twice before to oversee cases after local judges had recused themselves.
In 2013, Judge Bozza issued an injunction against then-Sheriff George David after he was sued by the Board of Commissioners following an investigative report by the Beaver Countian that revealed David had ordered his deputies to perform security services for private corporations and individuals — including local real estate tycoon CJ Betters — in violation of state law.
That same year, Judge Bozza ordered former Beaver County Solicitor Myron Sainovich to pay back tens-of-thousands of dollars he had illegally billed taxpayers above and beyond his $82,000 salary as the county’s attorney.
George David and Myron Sainovich both appealed their respective cases all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where Judge Bozza’s rulings were both upheld.
Treasurer Javens’ Lawsuit Against The People
Treasurer Javens and her adult daughter filed the litigation alleging defamation in Beaver County Common Pleas Court on April 27th against the six “John Doe” defendants who anonymously posted negative comments about the women on the Beaver Countian’s website between December 4th, 2015 and March 20th, 2016.
Treasurer Connie Javens has been the topic of extensive investigative reporting by the Beaver Countian, and is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement officials.
Although not a named defendant in the case, the Beaver Countian was served with a subpoena on May 2nd by Treasurer Javens and her daughter seeking records maintained by this publication which could be used to reveal the true identities of the “John Doe” defendants so the women could proceed with their litigation. Beaver Countian founder John Paul refused to provided Javens and Zuke with any information about the anonymous commenters, formally invoking the Pennsylvania Journalist Shield Law. Attorneys for this publication filed a motion with the court seeking to quash the subpoena.
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.
Attorney Gerald Benyo, representing anonymous commenter “John Q. Taxpayer,” filed a 1,000 page motion on behalf of his client seeking to quash the subpoena and also asked the court to sanction Treasurer Javens in excess of $10,000 for her “vexatious conduct” in filing the “frivolous” lawsuit. Pittsburgh attorney James Tallman with the Pittsburgh law firm of Elliott & Davis filed a motion to quash the subpoena on behalf of the remaining five anonymous commenters aka “thebigdigger,” “THE EXECUTIONER,” “Slicer,” “Courthouseconvicts,” and “ConnieintheSlammer.”
On June 17th, Beaver County President Judge John D. McBride recused all of the county’s judges from the case and ordered the Court Administrator’s Office to seek appointment of an out-of-county judge to preside over the matter.
On July 22nd, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania assigned Senior Erie County Judge John Bozza to preside over the litigation. It is anticipated that Judge Bozza will file a scheduling order for the case in the near future.
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.