Cop wins order banning critics from naming him while he sues them

A cop allegedly flashed the "OK" sign, appropriated lately by white supremacists and right-wing provocateurs, at protestors. This does not mean the officer, named as Ryan Olthaus in an official complaint, is either of those things, and several bloggers are being sued over their postings about the incident. In addition to this, however, the judge in his case issued a restraining order that prevents the people he is suing from talking about him at all. This is blatantly unconstutitional, writes Eugene Volokh for Reason magazine.

The bloggers are banned from mentioning the police officer at all. They aren't just banned from libeling him; even a post conveying accurate information, or expressing an opinion, about the police officer is forbidden, if it mentions the officer's name.

That strikes me as a clearly unconstitutional prior restraint. … all this strikes me as quite improper: the sealing (even in the more limited form than first appeared), the restraining order, and the proposed injunction. But at this point, the restraining order appears to be the most troubling: It bars critics of the government from mentioning the name of a public official (Ohio law treats police officers as public officials for libel law purposes and for other purposes), based on a quick decision by one judge without an adversary hearing. A pretty clear First Amendment violation, it seems to me.

Legal efforts to conceal the officer's name have resulted in his being widely-named in the media, including in USA Today, the largest-circulation newspaper in the English-speaking world: a textbook example of the Streisand Effect, whereby efforts to silence something only draws wide attention to it.

At Techdirt, Tim Cushing reports that the social media presence identified as Olthaus's is scrubbed clean, but not before being screencapped by activists. What they report reads like an Onion-style parody of an angry cop's Facebook page, consumed by fear, violent fantasy and tacky right-wing memes. There's even a Punisher skull with a Thin Blue Line flag.

Officer Ryan Olthaus — who was involved in the controversial killing of Dontez O'Neal in 2012 — goes by the name "Michael Ryan" on his Facebook page. The pseudonym being used in the lawsuit against these social media users is "M.R."

That all seems to add up to Officer Pseudonym. His lawyer seems to feel the current, possibly unconstitutional order doesn't go far enough, though. The officer would also like to see the defendants forced to remove any previous posts about him. His attorney argues the posts are libelous because [checks filing] they were made by people who don't like cops.