Press Release (7/15/2014) Chan v. Ellis: Appeal Transferred to GA Supreme Court
July 15, 2014
Contact: Oscar Michelen
Phone: (212) 448-9933
For Immediate Release
In an unexpected twist in the ongoing Georgia website censorship case of Matthew Chan, anti-troll website owner of ExtortionLetterInfo.com (“ELI”) and Linda Ellis, poet and author of “The Dash”, the Georgia Court of Appeals ordered the case be transferred to the Georgia Supreme Court.
The order by the Court of Appeals stated that “the entire record and the briefs of the parties… raised significant and novel constitutional issues addressing… the First Amendment”. Further, “the briefs make clear, the appeal raises issues of first impression in Georgia” and there was “very little if any applicable law in other jurisdictions.”
In February 2013, Chan lost a case against Ellis where she charged him with allegedly stalking her, and posting her home address, family information, and death threats on ELI. However, many of those posts were made by third-party visitors to ELI, not Chan himself and neither Chan nor the website was ever requested to take down any of the allegedly offensive posts. Nevertheless, Ellis was awarded a sweeping Permanent Protective Order by the local court. That order, required among other things, a wholesale removal from ELI of all 2,000 posts by anyone that ever mentioned Ellis, her poem, or her business practices in any way.
In August 2013, Chan appealed the lower court’s permanent protective order. Oscar Michelen and William J. McKenney, who are representing Chan on this appeal, filed a motion to have the case transferred to the Supreme Court on the grounds that Chan’s rights under the First Amendment were being “improperly restricted and violated.” The Court of Appeals denied that motion on the basis that the appeal did not “challenge the constitutionality of a law, ordinance, or constitutional provision.” It did not appear to the Court at that time “that subject-matter jurisdiction” was “proper for the Supreme Court.”
With the denial for his motion to transfer his case to the Supreme Court, Chan filed his briefs with the Court of Appeals as scheduled. A series of briefs submitted by both Chan and Ellis concluded in November 2013 and the parties were awaiting a decision from the Court.
Instead, the Court of Appeals has now agreed that jurisdiction properly lies with the Supreme Court and has transferred the appeal there. Oscar Michelen states, “I am glad the Court of Appeals recognizes that these issues are ones which need to be addressed by the State’s highest court as they touch upon issues of first impression and of Constitutional significance. I look forward to the Georgia Supreme Court’s determination of the merits of our appeal.”
Chan’s reaction to the legal twist, “I am gratified that the Court of Appeals agreed with us that the issues raised in my appeal needed to be reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court. The scope and potential impact of the outcome of this case goes far beyond me and the ELI website. It goes to all website owners and forum administrators in Georgia and possibly outside the state.”
Court of Appeals
of the State of Georgia
ATLANTA, July 02, 2014
The Court of Appeals hereby passes the following order:
A14A0014. CHAN v. ELLIS.
After this appeal was docketed, but before the parties filed their briefs,appellant Matthew Chan filed a motion to transfer the appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia, asserting that the appeal raised constitutional issues under that court’s exclusive jurisdiction. This court denied that motion on the ground that the appeal did “not challenge the constitutionality of a law, ordinance, or constitutional provision.” Accordingly, it does not appear at this juncture that subject-matter jurisdiction is proper in the Supreme Court.” (Emphasis supplied.)
The entire record and the briefs of the parties and of amicus curiae, however,have raised significant and novel constitutional issues addressing the interplay of the First Amendment and the wide dissemination of information made possible by the internet, particularly with respect to the issuance of a permanent protective order and the trial court’s broad discretion to bring about the cessation of conduct constituting stalking. As the briefs also make clear, the appeal raises issues of first impression in Georgia, and there is very little if any directly applicable law in other jurisdictions.Therefore, while the appeal does not “draw in question” the constitutionality of any statute within the meaning of Ga. Const. of 1983, Art VI, Sec. VI, Para. II (1), it is a case “involving the construction of . . . the Constitution of the State of Georgia or of the United States” within the meaning of that provision.
Accordingly, this appeal is hereby TRANSFERRED to the Supreme Court.
Recommended Reading and supporting docs:
Chan v. Ellis: Notice of Docket (August 19, 2013)
Chan v. Ellis: Appellant (Matthew Chan) Brief (September 30, 2013)
Chan v. Ellis: Appellee (Ellis) Brief (October 21, 2013)
Chan v. Ellis: Timothy B. McCormack Amicus Brief for Appellee (October 18, 2013)
Chan v. Ellis: Appellant (Matthew Chan) Reply Brief (November 8, 2013)
Chan v. Ellis: Appellant (Matthew Chan) Supplemental Brief in Reply to McCormack Amicus Brief (November 14, 2013)