Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former IRS Attorney (and Current Law Prof) Proceeds to Trial in $20m Suit v. Former Girlfriend for Revealing Details of Their Sex Life on Blog

Steinbuch_1Cover_3The Associated Press reports today that former Deputy Senior Counselor to the Commissioner of the IRS, and current Arkansas-Little Rock Law Prof, Robert Steinbuch's "cyberspace sex scandal" case is going to trial.  Steinbuch's $20 million lawsuit against Jessica Cutler claims that she revealed details of their sex life on her Washingtonienne blog while both were staffers in the U.S. Senate:

Steinbuch's case over the embarrassing, sexually charged blog appears headed for an embarrassing, sexually charged trial. Lurid testimony about spanking, handcuffs and prostitution aside, the Washingtonienne case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline. ...

Steinbuch says he was publicly humiliated. He went to court seeking more than $20 million in damages. The case is embroiled in thorny pretrial issues, with each side demanding personal information from the other. Steinbuch wants to know how much money Cutler received from the man she called her "sugar daddy." Cutler demanded Steinbuch's student evaluations from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School, where he teaches....

Jonathan Rosen said Steinbuch wants to restore his good name. Students in his legal ethics class all search the Internet and learn about the blog, Rosen said.

Court documents

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» The Washingtonienne Complaint from Ace of Spades HQ
Hottest. Court filing. Ever. The real lawyers were of course completely right yesterday in noting that one could have a cause of action for invasion of privacy if one's personal, scandalous information were made public, even if it's true. So... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 28, 2006 10:58:48 AM


That a federal court should risk contamination with this matter is amazing. No comment on the litigants and their allegations, since this is a blog and they frivolously make clear the risk of frivolous lawsuits over frivolous blog commentary. But were one faced with hypothetical persons in a hypothetically similar scenario, one might wish they would hypothetically grow up.

Posted by: Jake | Dec 28, 2006 2:41:58 PM


Or we could deal with these sorts of matters by learning to live with a bit more openness about how we interact with others.

Leaving the issue of violation of rights to privacy by bloggers to development by case law seems fine to me.

The interesting twist here is the probable existence of insurance coverage (personal injury coverage - violation of rights to privacy). I suspect the insurance carrier is defending under a reservation of rights. If the carrier ends up paying, and the coverage litigation works out in favor of the policy holder, the privacy suit could become a cottage industry (at least until the standard homeowner's and CGL policy language is changed).

Posted by: cfw | Dec 28, 2006 11:07:54 AM

I have often thought that there should be some kind of legal presumption of privacy for intimate matters. The candid photos and videos of celebrities taken in private that have popped up in the last few years (some of them stolen) would seem to argue that some gap in the law exist.

We are entering an era in which virtually every electronic device will have an integrated camera or sensor of some kind. We will soon spend our lives under accidental surveillance. Combined with the internets ability to disseminate information world wide, such surveillance could make all of our lives an open book.

We might want to get the law on such matters hammered out before hand.

Posted by: Shannon Love | Dec 28, 2006 8:52:02 AM

That's not a sex scandal in Arkansas. Getting caught with a goat barely is.

Posted by: HSD | Dec 28, 2006 7:32:41 AM

Paul, you put the word "them" in your last sentence. That was an accident, right?

Posted by: roy edroso | Dec 28, 2006 6:44:33 AM

You said "beating them off". Huh-huh, huh-huh.

Posted by: Beavis and Butthead | Dec 28, 2006 6:16:15 AM

Shouldn't the guy pay her for the free advertising?

I'll bet he's down there in Ark. beating them off with a fly swatter.

Posted by: Paul A'Barge | Dec 28, 2006 5:57:32 AM