The judge presiding over a high-profile serial killer case in Cleveland is under scrutiny after her e-mail address was linked to dozens of comments on the Cleveland Plain Dealer Web site, reports WCPN for National Public Radio. Some comments were about ongoing cases she’s hearing, including that of Anthony Sowell, who’s suspected of killing 11 women. Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold is suing the newspaper for $50 million, saying it violated her privacy. The commenter used the name “Lawmiss” and posted more than 80 comments on the site. But the comments raised the suspicions of an online Plain Dealer staffer who, when investigating the pseudonym, stumbled on an e-mail address linked to Saffold. Her lawyer Brian Spitz doesn’t deny that she sometimes used the name Lawmiss. But, he says, “Judge Saffold commented on nothing that’s currently – or has ever been – pending in her court.” Those comments, Spitz contends, were actually written by Saffold’s 23-year-old daughter.
It’s the release of her online identity that’s the basis of Judge Saffold’s $50 million suit against the Plain Dealer. Spitz argues that he paper violated privacy policies when it revealed Saffold’s identity. “Either the Plain Dealer breached its promise to keep that information confidential, or it never intended to keep it confidential,” Spitz says. “So it’s either a breach of contract or fraud.” Plain Dealer editor Susan Goldberg defended the paper’s publication of Saffold’s identity, saying it was in the public interest. “What keeps getting lost in this debate is the right of this defendant, who’s on trial for his life, for a fair and impartial judge,” Goldberg says, referring to accused killer Anthony Sowell, whose trial starts in June.