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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Paris Regional Medical Center, also known as Essent PRMC LP, sued John Does 1-10, alleging that Doe 1 had set up a blog that contained defamatory comments that “unfairly disparage and criticize the Hospital, its employees and the doctors who admirably serve patients there on a daily basis.” The hospital also alleged that some postings to the blog had disclosed confidential patient health information and generally complained that the postings “are otherwise actionable under federal and state law.” Procedurally, the hospital filed a petition against the Does, combined with an ex parte request to SuddenLink, a nonparty, to disclose information, asking the trial court to direct SuddenLink to disclose the identities of the Does. On June 19, the court granted the motion. On July 23, the court issued a second agreed order, stating that the hospital and SuddenLink had agreed to amend the previous order which provided for notice to the Does with opportunity for them to respond. If no response was made, SuddenLink would disclose the information. Attorney James Rodgers appeared on behalf of the unnamed subscriber by letter filed Aug. 6 and thereafter at a hearing conducted Sept. 7. At that time, the only information before the trial court consisted of an unsworn petition with no evidentiary attachments or affidavits. Neither side presented evidence at the hearing, only arguments of counsel. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court allowed additional briefing to be submitted by Wednesday of the following week. The trial court sent a letter to counsel dated Sept. 14 in which, after quoting excerpts from two cases, it found that good cause had been shown and the “burden by plaintiff has been met to meet the requirements of the exceptions to the Communication Act to grant the request by Plaintiff . . . .” and directed counsel to prepare an order for the court’s signature. On Sept. 24, the attorney for John Doe 1 “filed a letter pointing out the inherent weakness” of the hospital’s case as pleaded, “correctly noting that no evidentiary support had been provided” by the hospital in support of its claims and that, in the absence of any such support, even the lowest level of review suggested by the courts as authorizing such discovery had not been met. Three days later, on Sept. 27, for the first time, the hospital’s attorney provided a petition with some form of evidentiary support in the form of an affidavit from a representative of the hospital stating that the statements in the petition were true and attached copies of the blog and various documents generated by the hospital in an attempt to bolster its breach of contract claims against Does 2-10. On Oct. 1, the trial court signed an order explicitly stating it had considered the Sept. 27 filing, as well as everything that had previously been presented to the court, overruled John Doe 1′s objection to the agreed order, and ordered SuddenLink to disclose the name and address of the subscriber. John Doe 1 filed a petition for writ of mandamus asking the court to order the district court to withdraw its order directing a third party ISP to reveal his identity to the hospital. HOLDING:The court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus. The hospital argued that John Doe 1 lacked standing to assert this petition for writ of mandamus. But John Doe 1′s request that his name should not be released, the court stated, involved a possible invasion of personal and constitutional rights. The court stated that the rules of procedure authorize a relator to move for such protection and hence granted John Doe 1 standing to bring this action. The hospital sought an order of discovery of the identity of blogger Doe 1 pursuant to 47 U.S.C. �551, the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984. The court’s initial order to disclose was explicitly made pursuant to the CCPA, as was its later agreed order. The CCPA generally prohibits the disclosure of subscriber information but provides a safe haven for a cable operator’s disclosure of such information when made pursuant to court order. Subsection (h) of �551, the court stated, governs a cable operator’s disclosure of subscriber information to a governmental entity, which may only occur pursuant to a court order, and only on proof by clear and convincing evidence of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and the materiality of the information sought. The court stated its belief that the federal statute was not intended or designed as a procedural vehicle to obtain identities of subscribers to the network; the intent of the statute was to prevent the disclosure of such names. But an exception exists, the court noted, allowing disclosure when a proper court order requires such disclosure. The court then examined whether the trial court was bound to use Texas discovery procedures and abused its discretion by failing to do so. Texas discovery rules, the court stated, provide a mechanism for an orderly process of discovery “which was not utilized in this case.” The court noted several rules that would have allowed the hospital to seek or compel discovery from a nonparty. The court found that an order compelling production could have been issued pursuant to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Instead, the hospital obtained an ex parte order entirely outside the rules, based on the application of a statute that was “not relevant to this situation.” The court concluded that, when a discovery order entirely fails to apply the rules of discovery, issuance of mandamus requiring the trial court to utilize those rules and procedures is appropriate. The court also noted the First Amendment right to anonymous speech. The court found that even if the hospital sought to use the correct rules of procedure to obtain the John Does’ identity, it did not meet its burden to obtain such an outcome. A good faith allegation of wrongdoing, devoid of factual detail, is insufficient to obtain a court order that forces a party to reveal an anonymous speaker’s identity. A trial court “must examine facts and evidence before concluding that a defendant’s constitutional rights must surrender to a plaintiff’s discovery needs,” the court stated. OPINION:Carter, J.; Morriss, C.J., and Carter and Moseley, JJ.

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