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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chicago Sheriff Sues Craig List to Halt 'Erotic Services' Listings

Seriously, you have to give Cook County Chicago Sheriff some credit. How many law enforcement officers go to federal court to shut down hookers? Let's face it, most just use undercover decoy cops to pull off stings. In every city in America, at that.

But go to erotic services on and you can find thousands of adds in hundreds of cities inviting patrons to pay for somene's 'time.' Tom Dart has targeted a new approach, he says, in part because of the overwhelming volume of ads which would make targeted law enforcement like putting a band aid on a sinking boat. So he sued Craigs List, asking for injunctive relief to stop their site from operating whilst promoting an unlawful product, to wit, prostitution.

Dart, who garnered national publicity last fall when he halted all evictions related to mortgage foreclosures for a little more than a week, said Craigslist continues to be "the largest source of prostitution in America." But the filing came as a surprise to both the Illinois attorney general and the Cook County state's attorney, the public's usual representatives in lawsuits. Neither were consulted by Dart, who turned to the law firm of Querrey & Harrow to represent him free of charge. What is that guy running for?

In a written statement, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said he had not seen Dart's lawsuit, but he said it was "extremely unwise" to conduct crimes on the site because police keep close track and the company cooperates with authorities. The Chicago Tribune said legal experts are divided on whether Dart's efforts will succeed. My opinion is it will not.

As I have blogged about nearly on a weekly basis, the federal law holds that Web sites such as Craigslist are not responsible for content they didn't create—the reason it won a lawsuit in 2006 alleging that apartment ads that barred minorities or tenants with children violated the Fair Housing Act.

But Jim Speta, a Northwestern University Law School professor, said Dart's suit may successfully skirt the law by claiming that prostitution is a public nuisance and Craigslist has a responsibility not to host the ads. Since its settlement in November of the lawsuit by 40 states, Craigslist now requires ad posters to pay a $5 fee with a credit card, a measure intended to allow law enforcement to track users' identities. So a precedent has been set where Craigslist may have potential problems.
And here is the link to the full story in the Chicago Tribune

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