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Internet Defamation Suit Dismissed

June 30, 1999

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) _ A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against an America Online user by a judge in Pennsylvania, in a case the American Civil Liberties Union said had important free speech implications.

The Pennsylvania jurist, Allegheny County Superior Court Judge Joan Orie-Melvin, sought $50,000 in damages from an AOL user, whose identity she did not know, over a statement on a Web site expressing dismay that Ms. Orie-Melvin had allegedly lobbied on behalf of a lawyer seeking a judgeship.

She filed the suit in Loudoun County because AOL is based there. AOL was not a party to the suit.

Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas Horne ruled that just because AOL is based here does not mean Virginia courts are open to lawsuits involving worldwide Internet communications.

``This is a small case in many ways but the principle is very important,″ said Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU’s Virginia chapter.

Neither Ms. Orie-Melvin nor her lawyer, Bob Beagan, immediately returned telephone messages left today seeking comment.

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