Groklaw’s non-connection to IBM

Dan Lyons

October 22, 2006

On Monday, Aug. 16, 2004, the anonymous author of Groklaw — a paralegal named PJ — performed an amazing feat. At 11:16 a.m. EDT, PJ the paralegal posted a sophisticated and insightful 2,200-word analysis [ ] of a memorandum IBM had just filed in the SCO v. IBM lawsuit. Under the headline, “IBM Goes For the Jugular,” PJ displayed phenomenal legal acumen, pointing out to readers the exact pages and paragraphs where IBM’s most damning information lay buried in this complex 77-page legal document. Better yet, PJ even provided a link to a PDF of the memorandum itself.

But here’s the amazing part. On Monday, Aug. 16, 2004, when PJ published her article and posted a copy of the memorandum on her website, that memorandum was not yet available on the court’s website. In fact, though IBM’s lawyers had filed the memorandum just before the close of business on Friday, Aug. 13, the court did not make the memorandum available until Wednesday, Aug. 18, two days after Groklaw published its analysis.

Weirder still, the copy that Groklaw published is not the same as the one that the court posted. The Groklaw copy contains 13 pages of exhibits and attachments that the court did not make available. Also, the date stamp on Groklaw’s document is different than the date stamp on the court’s copy. In fact they’re not even close. The stamp on Groklaw’s copy is tilted down to the left. The court’s copy is tilted down to the right.

Check it out for yourself. Groklaw’s version is here [ ]. The court’s version is here [ ]. (You need to scroll down through the docket and download item # 232-1, which is listed as “filed” on Aug. 13, 2004, and “entered” on Aug. 18, 2004.) SCO’s version is here [ ]. (Again, download item #232, dated Aug. 13, 2004.) SCO’s version and the court’s version are identical. The version available on PACER, the online court document system, matches the documents on the court website and SCO website.

So how did Groklaw get a different copy? SCO and its lawyers say they didn’t provide anything to Groklaw. PJ didn’t respond to emails when I inquired last year. IBM’s lawyers in Utah didn’t respond to my emails asking about this. When I called and got through, a lawyer hung up on me.

This is interesting only because Groklaw has always insisted that it has no connection to IBM, and operates entirely independently, even as SCO Group has complained that Groklaw, which sprang into existence two months after SCO filed its lawsuit, operates as a propaganda site for IBM.

Two (almost) possible explanations:

1. Maybe, by coincidence, with no help from IBM’s lawyers, Groklaw just happened to have someone hanging around in the Utah court clerk’s office just before the close of business on the Friday afternoon right when the IBM legal team arrived; and Groklaw asked the clerk for a copy right after it was filed, and just as the clock ticked down on the close of business on a Friday, got a copy from the court.

2. Maybe, without talking to IBM lawyers, Groklaw somehow intuited that the document had been filed late Friday, so Groklaw arrived at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and within 46 minutes someone had obtained the memorandum, copied it, faxed the entire memorandum back East, or scanned it into a PDF file and emailed it, and PJ had read it and crafted her 2,200-word analysis.

Well, could be. Except that, if either of those scenarios took place — that is, if Groklaw had obtained its copy from the court — its copy would bear the same stamp as the court’s copy. And it doesn’t. Whoops.

When I spoke to one of the court clerks in Utah, he told me they typically stamp several copies — one for the court, one for the judge, then a few for the attorneys to take with them to give out to people, including the media. “If the stamps are different then I would assume they [Groklaw] got the documents from attorneys in the case,” the clerk told me.

Nothing wrong with that. But it kind of runs counter to Groklaw’s claim of having no connection to IBM. That in turn makes you wonder if maybe IBM doesn’t just feed documents to Groklaw, but also provides some assistance in pointing out the important bits. Or even helps PJ the paralegal put her spin on things. That in turn makes you wonder who “PJ” might really be.

Copyright 2006