On January 30, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey moved to join a federal lawsuit filed against the City of Newark for disciplining a police officer who anonymously posted a message on a website that was critical of the Newark Police Department. The lawsuit also challenges the action of Newark police in improperly obtaining a subpoena to require an Internet Service Provider to turn over the identity of the then-anonymous web poster.
In February of 2006, the plaintiff in the case, Officer Louis Wohltman, anonymously posted messages about the integrity and competence of the Newark police department on http://www.newarkspeaks.com a website on which people engage in dialogue about local issues. Due to the fact that Newark Police Department supervisors apparently disliked the content of the anonymous web messages they went to great -- and ultimately illegal -- lengths to uncover the identity of the web poster. Despite the fact that what Wohltman wrote did not amount to an illegal threat, the police department improperly used the criminal grand jury subpoena process to obtain Wohltman's identity. Then, the department suspended Wohltman for nine months without pay for making the critical statements.
The case is captioned Wohltman v. The City of Newark, et al., and was filed in the United States District Court in Newark.
- Wohltman: Complaint (85 KB pdf)