Oral legal arguments are set for Nov. 7 in a Kettering-based company’s quest to have search engine giant Google identify an anonymous blogger who has been critical of the company.
Reynolds and Reynolds Co. and Robert Brockman, Reynolds’ chairman and chief executive, are identified as “real parties of interest” in a Texas case, as is Google Inc. The case’s “relator” is identified as John Doe, an anonymous blogger once called “Trooper” on the Internet. (A “relator” in law can be someone who has information about a workplace or information relevant to a legal case.)
The Supreme Court of Texas will hear oral arguments in the case at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, according to a court notice filed last week.
“Trooper” began blogging about Reynolds and Reynolds after Houston-based Universal Computer Systems acquired the company, taking it private, in 2006. According to a recent blog posting on Lawyers.com, “Trooper” has compared Brockman “to Bernie Madoff and Satan, and calling him an idiot, a lunatic and a crook. Reynolds’ new CEO didn’t take kindly to that and went to court to get Google to cough up the identity of Trooper, whom management suspected of being an employee.”
Another blog, called “Reynolds Information Two,” was created after Trooper apparently ceased blogging. The newer blog — which says it was created to provide information about Reynolds “in the absence of Trooper” — does not appear to be active, with the most recent post there dated January 2011.
According to case documents, Brockman and Reynolds are seeking “certain identifying information” from Google regarding the blog created by “John Doe” or “Trooper.” According to Reynolds, what Trooper has written on that blog has been “critical and defamatory of Reynolds.”
“The dispute raised in this proceeding is fundamentally between Reynolds and John Doe,” says one document in the case filed in April 2013 on behalf of Google.
That filing adds: “Google is, quite simply, ‘caught in the middle’ of this dispute between Reynolds and John Doe.”
The filing says Google will provide information to Reynolds if ordered to do so, but the company feels it should not be required to do that.
According to Lawyers.com, in 2011, a trial court agreed to force Google to reveal “Trooper’s” identity and an appeals court agreed with the ruling. Trooper “continues to resist Reynolds’ attempt to find him and has now convinced the Texas high court to rule on the matter,” the site said.
A Reynolds spokesman declined to comment Friday, citing the ongoing litigation. Messages seeking comment were left with attorneys representing Google.
Attorneys for “Doe” declined to make their client available for a phone interview, but they said the case goes to the heart of what the First Amendment protects.
“This is a case that quite easily could end up in the United States Supreme Court,” said Richard Faulkner, a Richardson, Texas attorney representing “Doe.”
However the Texas Supreme Court decides, Doe is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Faulkner said.
“Doe” does not and has not worked for Reynolds and Reynolds, he added. Asked if he or she worked for a Reynolds competitor, Faulkner said, “Trooper was in a position to be knowledgeable.”
Attorneys for the blogger said the case is not technically a lawsuit, but a legal “device” — a pre-suit request for a deposition — filed in an attempt to identify “Doe.”
Reynolds and Reynolds, which provides software and other products and services to automobile dealers, has some 1,300 workers in Kettering in a campus off County Line Road.