Two days ago Judge Beverly Cannone denied a motion from the defense to recuse herself in the Karen Read case. In her denial she said something interesting which some attorneys I’ve spoken with have taken particular issue with because it’s not grounded in any sort of law. Cannone wrote in response to Sean McCabe’s threats to bury this award winning journalist in the yard of her seaside cottage that it is impossible to “manufacture an appearance of partiality by utilizing a blogger, who is not subject to the same ethical standards of attorneys and members of the press, to spread rumors and pass them off as truth.”
No rumors were spread as truth.
It is not a rumor that Sean McCabe threatened me.
It is not a rumor that Sean McCabe claimed to have a line to “Auntie Bev.”
It is not a rumor that she has not responded to Attorney Yannetti’s motion to compel the Commonwealth to hand over John O’Keefe’s clothing for DNA testing.
It is not a rumor that she cancelled an evidentiary hearing that she previously agreed to.
It is not a rumor that she is still presiding over this case, despite not being the assigned judge for it.
Cannone went out of her way to refer to me as simply a “blogger,” rather than what the defense called me in their filings and oral arguments – an investigative journalist. She did this by design in order to delegitimize my reporting, and dismiss the factual things I have reported about her simply as “rumors.”
But in court she has to cite case law in order to back up her rulings.
How exactly am I not a member of the press?
Who is she to decide who is and isn’t a member of the press?
Are people only reporters if their paychecks come from billion dollar corporations that bought up hundreds of newspapers or television stations?
What specific ethical standards is the Boston Globe held to, that I am not held to?
How does she opine these things as though it is accepted judicial fact, rather than her own personal feelings of disgust towards me?
The Ninth Circuit ruled on Jan. 17 in Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox that bloggers are “governed by the same decades-old defamation jurisprudence as the “institutional press” when speaking about matters of public concern.”
Judge Cannone knows nothing of my “ethical standards.” She doesn’t know what research methods I use or how I decide what I will and will not print.
More importantly, if I’m not held to the same ethical standards as journalists then why have the courts repeatedly treated me as if I am when malcontents sue me? I’ve been sued several times, and I am currently being sued by Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia for reporting on her violation of the First Amendment by blocking me when I asked her about allegations of drunk driving.
At no point did a judge in any of those cases throw out the lawsuit because I am not bound by ethical standards. In several of those cases judges have specifically referred to me as a journalist and member of the press, but I could still be found guilty of defamation even if I wasn’t. In doing so I have been held to the exact same ethical standards as any reporter. I do not have the right to make up lies or defame people I write about, yet Cannone’s ruling suggest that I can do so without accountability.
Notice she used two words by design – manufacture and utilizing.
Manufactured suggests that the defense made up the appearance of partiality out of thin air, when in fact they cited:
- Sean McCabe’s public comments
- Cannone’s failure to respond in a timely manner to motions to compel discovery
- Canceling an evidentiary hearing the day before the hearing in order to protect Jen McCabe and Brian Albert
- Deviating from past practice by removing Judge Daniel O’Shea from his assigned courtroom so that she could continue to be the only judge making rulings on this case
She also wrote “utilizing a blogger,” rather than “citing a blogger,” which is a very different thing. They did in fact cite me in their motion, referencing content I had published, all of which was backed by evidence. But my conversation with Sean McCabe was done independent of the defense – they just simply read about it afterwards. Her use of the word “utilizing,” suggests that there is some sort of relationship between me and the defense, and that they have the ability to control the content that I publish. They aren’t citing me, they are utilizing me, according to Cannone.
More interestingly, Judge Cannone seems to be saying that she wasn’t recusing herself because the defense cited a “blogger,” rather than a reporter in their motion. Which begs the question – if a reporter from the Boston Globe had reported the exact same thing that I did, and had been threatened by Sean McCabe to bury their bodies in Cannone’s backyard, would she recuse herself? Her ruling suggests that she would.
Look at the case law that she cited immediately after that statement:
In re United States 158 F.3d 26,35
That case has nothing to do with the press, yet she was citing it for her argument of not needing to recuse herself. You can read about that case here, but it’s about a judge in Puerto Rico who refused to recuse themself from a case involving a bank they transacted with personally. Yet Cannone cites it as evidence that a blogger is not held to the same ethical standards as a journalist.
In other words – she doesn’t cite any relevant case law to back up her assertion.
The defense is not appealing Cannone’s ruling, because I think they felt like they made their point. But the fact that someone like me, who has no legal background, can look up case law and find out that she’s quoting things that have nothing to do with the argument she’s making, is troubling. This woman is completely unqualified to be a judge, and is personally invested in this case. As long as she remains on the bench it is unlikely that Karen Read will be treated fairly.