Free speech in peril in Paris, Texas

A ruling today by a judge in Paris, Texas looks to me like it could have serious ramifications for the First Amendment rights of bloggers and whistleblowers.

I first read about the case of The-Paris-site in this article by R. G. Ratcliffe (thanks for the onpass, Willie!):

AUSTIN — Paris, Texas, population 26,490, has become an unlikely Internet frontier with the filing of a defamation lawsuit by the local hospital against a critical anonymous blogger.

The lawsuit is testing the bounds of Internet privacy, First Amendment freedom of speech and whistle-blower rights.

(read more)

The next chapter is posted today on The-Paris-site, prefaced by a lovely quote from the courtroom scene in Arlo Guthrie’s song, Alice’s Restaurant, which seems absurdly appropriate.

I’d love to read some reaction to this from some of my favorite lawyers, including the folks who hang out in the First Amendment corner. While I’ve exercised that amendment as much as possible in my career, I certainly don’t have my ticket to practice.

Somebody tell me: Is this as troubling as it looks?