The National Law Journal reported yesterday that a U.S. District Court is allowing Anthony Ciolli, former Chief Education Director for AutoAdmit, to move ahead with his lawsuit against Stanford Law Professor Mark Lemley and others for wrongful initiation of civil proceedings, abuse of process, libel, and a host of other claims.
Professor Lemley was a member of the legal team for Heide Iravani and Brittan Heller, two Yale Law students who sued Mr. Ciolli and others for statements made on AutoAdmit.com. Nobody I mentioned this to had any idea what this was about, so I wrote a summary of the AutoAdmit saga to bring you up to date:
AutoAdmit is a website designed for college students, grad students, law students, and lawyers. It’s best known for its unmoderated law school discussion board, where socially and sexually repressed law students anonymously write ridiculously offensive things about their classmates. There may also be more legitimate uses, but they don’t really matter.
Back in 2007, anonymous posters wrote some bad stuff about Iravani and Heller. One of them thought that the comments ruined her job prospects when they came up in Google searches run by law firms she was interviewing at.
About a month later, Iravani and Heller, then known as Does 1 and 2, filed a
lawsuit against Anthony Ciolli and a bunch of pseudonyms, alleging copyright
infringement, false light, defamation, etc.
If you want to read what the posters actually said, check out the complaint
(pdf), but beware, its offensive stuff.
Nobody really understood why Mr. Ciolli was named in the suit, because he didn’t actually write anything on the site and, as an administrator, he was protected from liability by statute. Regardless, Mr. Ciolli’s post-graduation offer was rescinded by his law firm due to his association with AutoAdmit and the lawsuit.
Also, folks got pretty concerned about the possibility of suing anonymous posters on websites. Apparently, it’s becoming common practice to name pseudonyms in lawsuits, and then to track down their IP addresses and get their names. The Yale students’ lawyers managed to track down a few of the posters that way and added them to the amended complaint (pdf).
Then, in late 2007, the Yale students amended their complaint to leave Mr. Ciolli out of the lawsuit entirely. Mr. Ciolli, of course, turned right around and filed suit (pdf) against the Yale students and their lawyers for wrongfully including him in the original lawsuit.
There are a few subplots, but that’s the gist of it. Today’s news, that Mr. Ciolli’s lawsuit survived a motion to dismiss, means the AutoAdmit saga will likely become even more outrageous in the coming months.