“The bottom line is that the subpoena…was a form of harassment, a brazen attempt to follow up a gag on mainstream media with threats against a citizen journalist.”
I am a working writer for the mysterious Catharine Sloper, an outspoken critic of the family court system and the proprietor of the blog Divorce in Connecticut (DiC).
On January 2, 2015, I was on my way to New Haven, when I received a phone call that a Marshall wanted to serve me with a subpoena. The subpoena was for a very public child custody case, Foy v. Foy. Connecticut Judge Stephen Frazzini had issued an order prohibiting the “Connecticut Law Tribune” from writing about the case and the “Tribune” responded by calling the order a first amendment violation and was supported by the Connecticut ACLU.
The DiC website had published a single article on the Foy divorce back in November 2014. That article is what stirred up all the controversy leading to my subpoena, even though my name is not on the article as the author.
In addition, the majority of the information in this article was available publically at the time it was written with content that was known to be part of the public domain. It made no sense to hold me or the website responsible for publishing news that was readily available elsewhere and that had already appeared on other websites. Judge Frazzini acknowledged this when he rescinded the restraining order against the “Connecticut Law Tribune” back on December 3, 2014. The bottom line is that the subpoena I received was a form of harassment, a brazen attempt to follow up a gag on mainstream media with threats against a citizen journalist.
The day before the court hearing, my attorney told me that I would have to disclose my news sources or face jail. She also said that they intended to force me to admit that I am Catharine Sloper and responsible for the content on the website. I told her that readers and potential contributors to the blog rely on its anonymity, and that it would be unethical for me to reveal a source. My attorney was able to engage the services of the attorney who was also representing the CT Law Tribune in their case. Before I left her office, she advised me to bring my toothbrush to court the following day as I could end up in jail.
I appeared in court with my toothbrush, toothpaste and other essentials. I also brought my National Writers Union membership card and press pass, identifying me as a member of the media. I passed them to my attorney, who immediately pulled out the Connecticut Statute on the media, which he had played a part in writing, and showed me how the press pass put me in a much stronger position.
My attorney submitted a motion to the court defending my rights, and gave the court the opportunity to scrutinize my NWU credentials. At 2:00 p.m., the court said my presence was no longer required and I was free to go. The documentation I had from the NWU played a major role in keeping me out of jail.
What is really funny (or maybe not), is that my membership had actually expired. You can be sure I’ve renewed it.