Texas Supreme Court weighs damaging online comments

Texas Supreme Court weighs damaging online comments

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Robert Kinney says he was let go from his California legal recruiting job in 2004.

Kinney later started his own recruiting business here in Austin. But after his firing, his former boss put some comments online about the reasons he fired him -- reasons Kinney say are defamatory -- regarding a kickback scheme his employer felt he was involved in.

Kinney sued to have the comments taken down but Travis County threw the case out...saying it would be a violation of free speech because doing so would be considered prior restraint.

Now he's taken it to the highest civil court in Texas.

"It's important to me more as a father than as a businessman. I have children and 'Ask FM' and 'Facebook' and these other things are places where people get seriously harmed these days and what's important and the purpose of government is to give us a reasonable remedy. So we at least know there's something that can be done if there's something that happens to you out there," Kinney said.

His former employer's attorney, Anthony Ricciardelli, says the case is a matter of free speech and his client shouldn't be told by the courts to take the comments down.

"What's wrong with that is that it requires giving the court power to tell people what they can and cannot say. It's very dangerous for our free speech rights. It's just incredibly important that we preserve this sacrosanct constitutional right to free speech, it's really one of our bedrock protections so it's very dangerous to diminish it in any way," said attorney Anthony Ricciardelli.

We hit the streets to see what Austinites think. Justin Sweatt says the employer should have kept his mouth shut if he couldn't prove what he was saying.

"It's really not a free speech thing. You don't really have the freedom to defame or slander a person's character," Sweatt said.

Sweatt says it goes both ways though. He doesn't feel the employer should be forced to remove the posts.

"I don't think the court does necessarily have a right to tell him to do it...but do I think he should? Yes. I don't think you should go after former employees," Sweatt said.

On the MyFOXAustin Facebook page, Lisa writes: "It was unethical for an employer to do that."

Sue writes: "It should be removed. As a manager or boss, I thought all you were allowed to do is say whether you would or would not rehire them. That being said, you are not to go into details. Just a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer only."

The attorneys made their cases this morning before the justices. It's expected to be several months before they rule.

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