Reminder: I post this as myself, and not on behalf of any other entity.
I would like to point out that in my initial disclaimer, I said I would try to be evenhanded. I tried with this post, but…it’s really hard to not make fun of pubnt, and I’m afraid that I failed. This is not evenhanded.
Reminder of where we are: Right now, we’re in the very beginning of the discovery phase. That means that the parties have agreed on a schedule for discovery and have produced initial witness lists. One individual on Jane’s list was the @pubnt account on Twitter. I mentioned this last week, and there was much rejoicing. The Nut went relatively silent on Twitter…but don’t worry, it has faxed a letter to the Court.
Note that, as one might have expected, the Nut does not have a solid grasp on legal proceedings, and that shows in this letter. Also note, however, that the Nut is presenting a legally cognizable argument, and even though the evidentiary basis is thin (to put it in friendly terms), the underlying legal argument is not completely unsound.
A summation of pubnt’s claims for those who don’t want to wade through them.
- They don’t know anything about the business of Ellora’s Cave.
- They can’t figure out why Jane wants to call them as witnesses for her side.
(Lemme help, pubnt. Here’s what’s going on. Jane thinks that you might be someone who is connected to EC, as in a personal friend of Jaid Black, or someone involved in the business. She suspects that you’ve been told inside information, and she hopes it was in email form. Jane isn’t asking you to testify on her behalf. She’s saying that you might have information that sheds light on the case. You may think that none of the information in your possession is useful to Jane, but your legal judgment is demonstrably what one would call “sketchy”.)
- Pubnt claims that Jane is using the court proceedings to harass. Because pubnt is not good at using words, pubnt fails to mention that the person that is being harassed by Jane is pubnt, but that’s almost certainly what they mean. Pubnt also says that the gang that Jane is running (I think Pubnt means me and others who post on the #notchilled hashtag? — er, I’m a very bad stooge of Jane, since I disagree with her about 50% of the time, but hey) intends to harass it once its identity is known, presumably by taunting it a second time.Pubnt claims that there have been “very serious” threats made. I’m not sure what “very serious” threats have been made, but yeah, I would agree with pubnt that if pubnt’s identity was made public, and pubnt was someone well-respected, it would look very bad for them.
Chances are that pubnt is either (a) someone connected with the principals of the case, (b) someone we have never heard of, whose identity will strike bafflement into the hearts of all, or (c) someone we have already heard of, who already has little to no reputation in the community.
If I were masquerading as pubnt (plot twist!) I guess it would go badly for me when the mask got torn off, but I can’t imagine that pubnt is anyone who actually commands respect these days.
- Pubnt repeats that pubnt knows nothing.
- Pubnt claims that Jane is a “vicious troll” and that the judge needs to watch out for “possible gang activities” and “violation of our rights.” Pubnt doesn’t really mention which rights those are. Don’t worry; pubnt will get there. Eventually.
- Pubnt mentions that Jane was banned from RWA. Pubnt fails to mention this was because Jane did not meet the strict definitional requirements for membership in RWA, which as a trade association must offer benefits only to those in the trade, but that’s because pubnt gets news from Stop the Goodreads Bullies, everyone’s favorite source for made-up anonymous bluster. Courts just love anonymous online bluster! (Lookit me not being evenhanded.)
- Pubnt cites STGRB again for an attack that Jane supposedly led on an author.
- Pubnt cites STGRB yet again for an attack that Jane supposedly led on Nathan Bransford, an agent.
- Pubnt cites STGRB one more time for the proposition that Jane supports violence. The twitter thread, by the way, supports the proposition that Jane shrugs off hyperbole that invokes violent imagery. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t literally support authors getting punched in the throat for their books. You realize that anyone who reads this and looks at the receipts will say, “Uh, what? You’re afraid that you will be subject to actual violence because a different person said once that they were so disappointed in the ending of Veronica Roth’s book that they wanted to punch her in the throat, and Jane said NBD? How do you even function with fears like that?”Whatevs. Those are details.
- Pubnt says: And there’s more! We just won’t go into details.
- Pubnt says that Jane is jealous of success and targets those who are successful. (Which, of course, is why she went after EC when they reported a crushing loss of Amazon revenue, and not the publishers reporting record profits–but whatevs, details again.)
- Pubnt says that Jane targets anyone who speaks out against her.
- Pubnt says that they are “bystanders and legal case bloggers” (once again, no legal blog is mentioned) (Pubnt, you forgot to tell the judge that you gave Jaid Black legal advice!) Pubnt says that Jane runs her smear campaigns on Twitter, and so they have taken to the tweets to counteract her message by exercising their first amendment rights. This is the first time that pubnt manages to mention a cognizable right at stake here, so good job, pubby.I have not actually seen Jane tweet much, if at all, about this case, so presumably pubnt is conflating me with Jane here.
- Pubnt mentions that Jane’s gang is made up of “self-published authors” and bloggers who profit by selling self-published authors advertisements. I am apparently motivated by jealousy, because I wish that my ebooks were priced at $7.99 with me getting 25% of net digital royalties. I am eaten up with hatred at all the many rejections I’ve received.
- Pubnt reiterates that pubnt knows nothing, John Snow.
- Pubnt once again calls Jane perverse and a vicious troll.
- Pubnt says that it does NOT want to be a witness, nope, nosirree bob, in case there was any doubt.
- To prove that pubnt is pubnt, it promises to tweet, on February 14th, “In the American tradition of free speech the public can sort out truth from fiction only when both sides have their say.” Oookay pubnt.
There we are.
There are two questions here.
1. Has pubnt made a cognizable legal argument? Uh…yes. Not very well, admittedly, but pubnt is operating pro se and judges give a lot of leeway to those who are representing themselves. Pubnt clearly alleges that (1) It is engaging in anonymous free speech; that (2) Jane’s proposed discovery is not for the purpose of discovering information about the case, but for the illicit purpose of uncovering its identity, and (3) that uncovering its identity would threaten its first amendment right to comment on the case anonymously.
These are perfectly reasonable legal arguments for someone to make, if they find themselves in the position where their right of anonymous free speech and potentially their safety is threatened by a malicious subpoena in a court proceeding. Those of us who are watching the O.o that starts with G and ends with E and has “amergat” in the middle know that there is real truth to the fact that sometimes, the veil of anonymity is necessary for safety.
So if you ever find yourself in the situation where you fear for your safety because of malicious discovery attempts, find yourself a lawyer immediately, so you can quash that subpoena.
And that is why the judge read the letter and understood it as a motion to quash any subpoenas relating to pubnt, and entered it on the docket as such. Good for the judge.
Now, I said that these are perfectly reasonable legal arguments. The other problem pubnt will have is a factual one. Jane will probably be able to explain, based on pubnt’s own tweets, why it looks like pubnt has specialized information about the case. It’s hard to be all “I know nothing, Jon Snow!” when you’ve spent the last few months talking about the fact that you know so much and nobody else knows anything.
I mean, pubnt has claimed multiple times that Ellora’s Cave is flush with cash. Bank balances are not things that the general public knows. Pubnt has claimed that it has proof of libel. If so, that would be discoverable information, and Jane Litte therefore has the right to know it. Pubnt claims that EC is about to merge with one of the Big Five–a fact so bizarre that, if true, it would surely be under embargo right now, and so pubnt’s claimed knowledge of it demonstrates that it has internal knowledge of EC’s workings. And that’s only going back to very late January; I’m sure we could harvest hundreds more tweets of claimed insider knowledge.
There are really only two possibilities. Either (a) pubnt has been lying to us all (quelle surprise), or (b) pubnt has inside knowledge of EC’s affairs and thus should be subject to discovery requests. Pubnt’s main problem is that in order to explain why they should not be subject to a subpoena, they will have to go to the court and say, “We are lying sacks of shit and you cannot trust a word we say.”
This is not a particularly comfortable legal posture.
One last question that has been bandied about on Twitter: Is the Nut in danger of…anything, for sending the Court a screed that exhibits pubnt’s typical antifactual connection to reality? There are some things in the letter that are almost certainly what we would call “lies”–I think we’ve established pretty firmly that the Nut is not a legal blogger, at least not in the sense that the Nut has a blog. Or that the Nut knows beans about law.
But the Nut hasn’t actually said this was on penalty of perjury. It wasn’t even presented to the Court as a formal legal filing. It was basically just a letter that said “HELP MEEE PLEEEEEEAAASSEEEEE THERE ARE WOLVES ON TWITTER.” If the Nut wants to eventually file something with the court to prove its point, it will eventually have to submit…something that could create some danger. But a pro se letter sent to a judge is highly unlikely to result in sanctions of any kind.
What the Nut really, really needs right now is legal advice. Good thing that one of them’s a lawyer.