Weekly Roundup: Roommate Site Reprieved
A Los Angeles judge has ordered an online roommate referral service to stop asking subscribers about their sexual orientation, but stayed the order while an appeals court decides whether Roommates.com violated federal housing law.
Roommates contends the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does not apply to “shared living arrangements” and U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson agreed that “this is a serious legal question” in staying the permanent injunction he had granted fair housing activists against the service.
The landmark Internet law case was revived in April 2008 when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Roommates was not immune from suit under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which says that no interactive service provider “shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
By requiring subscribers to provide information about sex, family status and sexual orientation, the court said, “Roommate becomes much more than a passive transmitter of information provided by others; it becomes the developer, at least in part, of that information.” Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com, 521 F.3d 1127.
Roommates tried to narrow the scope of the injunction, saying it should be allowed to ask subscribers about sexual orientation as long as they don't have to answer. But Anderson said in a Jan. 22 ruling that
Because Roommate’s asking of the questions about sex, sexual orientation, and familial status, and Roommate’s own sorting, steering, and matching based on those characteristics, violate the FHA and FEHA [California's Fair Housing and Employment Act] and are not entitled to CDA immunity, those actions are properly included within the scope of the injunctive relief to which Plaintiffs are entitled.
Judge Tosses Most of Clemens' Slander Suit
A Houston judge has whittled down Roger Clemens' defamation suit against his former trainer to include only those statements in which Brian McNamee allegedly told another pitcher that Clemens used human growth hormone.
McNamee's far more significant statements to the Mitchell Commission that he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH are now out of the case after U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison ruled he was compelled to make them as part of a judicial proceeding.
A federal prosecutor investigating steroid trafficking told McNamee that he would have to speak to the commission to maintain his status as a cooperating witness. “As a matter of public policy, McNamee's statements to Mitchell should be protected,” Ellison said in an order partially granting a motion to dismiss.
No such immunity applies to what McNamee allegedly told Andy Pettitte, Clemens' friend and fellow pitcher, in two separate conversations. Ellison rejected McNamee's statute of limitations defense to that part of the case and also said the statements to Pettitte were “reasonably capable of defamatory meaning.”
Given that a grand jury is now investigating whether Clemens lied when he told Congress he had never used performance-enhancing drugs, persisting with what's left of his case against McNamee would seem like a waste of energy.