Ripoff Report’s Official Statement RegardingSeventh Circuit’s Decision in Blockowicz v. Williams
Imagine this -- someone you don’t know knocks on your door and hands you a court order. The order was issued by a court in another state. You don’t know any of the parties to the case. You have never even heard of the case before this moment.
Despite these facts, the order affects your rights in a major way. Maybe the order says that you must pay a lot of money to someone you’ve never heard of. Maybe the order says that you are no longer allowed to do something that’s important to your business. Maybe the order says that you must do something you don’t want to do.
Whatever it says, would you comply with such an order? Do you even have a choice? What would you do?
Bear in mind – you’ve never had your day in court so you don’t know why this order was issued, whether it was correctly issued, whether any defenses exist and whether there were any mistakes made by the court or by the other parties. You’re completely in the dark at this point. So, what do you do?
Ripoff Report was recently faced with exactly this dilemma. In keeping with our core mission of protecting speech to the fullest extent of the law, we decided that it was not just our right but also our duty to ask questions and dig deeper before we could comply with such an order. After all, as Benjamin Franklin once said, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
The basic facts of the case were as follows. On October 13, 2009, we received a letter from a law firm in Chicago asking us to comply with an injunction issued in a case called Blockowicz v. Williams. Until this letter arrived, we had never heard of the case.
You can view a copy of this letter here:
Without going into every detail of the case, this letter demanded that we comply with an order which required the removal of statements posted on several websites, including the Ripoff Report. Reading between the lines, this letter threatened to drag Ripoff Report into court if we did not comply.
Because lawsuits are extremely expensive, and because removing speech is a quick and easy way to avoid getting sued, most websites would immediately comply with this type of order without questioning whether the order was valid or even correctly issued.
Ripoff Report isn’t like most websites.
Other sites claim they support free speech, but when the going gets rough, they will usually protect their bottom line rather than the Constitutional rights and freedoms this country was founded upon. Unlike other sites, even when the speech involved is harsh or negative and even if our position sometimes generates negative press for us, we think that the First Amendment requires us to put our principles before our pocketbook and fight against censorship.
Because we could not and would not agree to comply with an order issued in this context, the plaintiffs promptly followed through on their threat by demanding that the federal court expand its injunction to make it clear that Ripoff Report was bound even though we were never a party to the case.
If you are interested, you can view the actual pleadings from the case here:
Plaintiffs’ Motion for Third Party Enforcement:
Ripoff Report’s Response:
After the matter was fully briefed and argued, the federal court in Illinois agreed with Ripoff Report and found that we were not legally required to comply with the injunction. A copy of the district court’s decision is available here:
Unwilling to accept the court’s decision, the plaintiffs appealed the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 27, 2010, the Seventh Circuit issued a ruling which affirmed the district court’s decision in all respects.
A copy of the Seventh Circuit’s decision is available here:
In short, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the lower Court and with Ripoff Report’s arguments that an injunction against the author of a posting on a website is not binding on the operator of the website who was not a party to the case. Why? In the simplest terms: in America everyone is entitled to their day in court and the website never had its day in court.
Despite all this, some of our critics have said that Ripoff Report should still “do the right thing” and remove the reports about Mr. and Mrs. Blockowicz even though the law does not require us to do so. After all, the Blockowicz family obtained an order from a federal court which concludes that the statements involved were false and defamatory. Given this, doesn’t logic and simple common decency require them to be removed?
Like any other opinion, reasonable minds may differ as to what’s right and wrong. However, in our view, the removal of speech is essentially like a First Amendment death penalty – it’s a permanent and irreversible decision that should only be applied in the most extreme cases and only where the evidence resolves every possible doubt. For reasons we have already explained in the comments to each report, we believe that the facts of this case do not warrant the application of such a severe penalty here and therefore removal of the reports is simply not appropriate. Having said that, although the existing reports remain visible in their original form, we have made minor redactions to the titles of the affected reports to remove language that was needlessly offensive and profane. Furthermore, despite our decision not to remove this text, anyone reading these reports should keep in mind that a court order has been entered which finds the statements below are not true.
===== Now to the original Report that was posted =====
Megan Susan Blockowicz is a dead beat parent who is currently in arrears of child support for a 6 year old son, and 10 year old daughter in excess of $41,000.00. Megan is currently wanted in the state of Illinois for parole violation resulting from being convicted of Felony Forgery, and Wire Fraud in 1995.
Megan is a fugitive from the law in Carson City, Nevada where, when working as a prostitute at Miss Kitty's Fantasy Guest Ranch, she stole checks from a local bar owner, forged them, and cashed the checks at a local casino. Megan is wanted in the State of Ohio for violation of probation in regard to Domestic Violence against her then 8 month old son (throwing the child on the floor), and her estranged husband(attempting to stab him with scissors). Megan is also wanted in the State of Ohio for Bigamy.
Megan is wanted by the Federal Authorites for falsifying her tax return, and claiming her two estranged children (whom she has not had contact with in over 3 years)as dependents and collecting over $4,000.00 in child tax credits.
Megan's parents, David J. Blockowicz, and Mary Blockowicz of Winnetka, IL have assisted her in avoiding prosecution by various state and federal authorities.
Megan Susan Blockowicz aka Megan Susan Marshall was married for the 3rd time (without being divorced from her two previous husbands) on December 7, 2001 in Carson City, Nevada to Raymond (Tony) Anthony Marshall. Last known whereabouts are Conway, SC and or Myrtle Beach, SC. Anyone having any information regarding the whereabouts of this person should contact Chief Investigator Rose Bilyeu of the State of Nevada at (775)688-1829, The Lyon County Police Department at (775)575-3383, The Lyon County D.A.'s Office at (775)463-6511 or her estranged husband (and custodial parent of her children) at (888)726-7472.
Megan is considered armed and dangerous. Do not approach this person on your own, but rather contact the authorities.