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Incarceration In Legal Schnauzer Case Is An "Extremely Dangerous" Development For Free Press

Posted on the 10 April 2014 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Roger and Carol Shuler have an
 emotional reunion. 

My five-month incarceration from the fallout of a defamation lawsuit is an "extremely dangerous" development, the head of a leading journalism organization says in a new story at Al Jazeera America.
Reporter Wilson Dizard wrote the story, titled "Case of Jailed Blogger Raises First Amendment Concerns."
Writes Dizard:
The merits of Shuler’s blog aside, journalist and civil liberties groups tend to agree that his incarceration raises flags in terms of First Amendment rights.
David Cullier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, described the development as “extremely dangerous.”
“If he did wrong, then there are recourses in civil court, but the government should not throw people in jail for expressing themselves,” he said.

Some experts told Al Jazeera that I could have handled the case in a more effective manner. But I point out that I was arrested before even having an opportunity to answer the lawsuit or receive an order on fundamental motions regarding proper service and jurisdiction:
Shuler said he would have challenged the injunction using the First Amendment if he’d had the opportunity.
“I was never served with the restraining order. I've never seen it to this day. I certainly would have appealed the injunction on First Amendment grounds if I had not been arrested before I had the chance,” he said.
I should note that I was open to hiring an attorney, but my arrest came so quickly that it short-circuited most any opportunities to defend myself.
Could this case have broader implications for general communications on the Web? It could if the law is applied to others as it has been applied to me--but hopefully, it won't come to that. A 2013/14 Virginia case styled Dietz v. Perez, involved a preliminary injunction very much like the one in my case. Fortunately, there was no effort to arrest Jane Perez, who had posted negative reviews at several Web forums about a contractor who had done repair work on her townhouse.
One expert called my incarceration an "aberration."
Shuler suggested that his case should concern all those who write on the Web, in whatever form.
“What if people could be jailed because of comments they make on Facebook or Twitter or any other Web forum? That could happen if the law were applied the way it has been in my case,” he said.
Others warn against widening the implications of this one case. Kurt Opsahl, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet rights advocacy group, said that Shuler’s jailing was an “an aberration in the justice system that should not become a trend.”
“The Supreme Court has recognized that the full protections of the First Amendment apply online, and most courts have appropriately balanced the rights in online cases. Of course, as the Shuler case illustrates, there are some outliers,” he said.

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