Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett has subpoenas to learn the identity of two critics on Twitter who chastised Corbett for his “Bonusgate” investigation of legislative corruption. The tweets objected to Corbett’s handling of the trials of 25 former and current state lawmakers charged with using taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes.
One critic identified himself as Signor Ferrari, a Casablanca character, at CasablancaPA, asking “Is it wrong to mix campaign work with taxpayer business? Apparently not when Tom Corbett does it.” The prosecutors insist that Signor Ferrari is really Brett Cott, a former legislative aide who was convicted on charges of theft of service, conflict of interest and conspiracy to commit conflict of interest. Corbett wants to show that Cott is using a pseudonym to “deny responsibility for his criminal conduct and to attack and malign the investigative and prosecutorial process.”
That does not seem a particularly compelling basis to seek to strip anonymity from critics of the government. There is a distinct lack of judgment exercised in this matter and a reasonable basis to object that Corbett (and his staff) are motivated out of personal anger as opposed to prosecutorial interests. The Supreme Court recognized the importance of anonymity in our democratic society, particularly in the criticism of our government. Here is an earlier law review article on the subject: Turley on Anonymity
Even judges at times rely on such anonymity, here. Law professors have also objected to such intrusion, here. Anonymity on the Internet is under attack, particularly in civil litigation, here and here.