Could it be taxpayers? Thomas Dart, the sheriff of Cook County Illinois, is suing Craigslist.
In the words of Sheriff Dart…
Prohibited activity rarely transpires in secret. Rare is the instance when such conduct occurs unabashed. Yet as these words are read, Defendant's website Craigslist.org ("Craigslist") is facilitating prostitution. To say Craigslist's "erotic services" forum makes prostitution accessible is an understatement. Advocacy groups consider the website to be one of the largest sources for prostitution in the country.
Informed sources tell us that Craigslist is also one of the nation's leading sources for broken down cars, slightly used mattresses, and cheap yard work. The site facilitates those who would play Dungeons and Dragons in secret, but those activities escape Sheriff Dart's attention for now.
No, Craigslist, according to the complaint filed by Sheriff Dart today in the Northern District of Illinois, is a public nuisance, and must be abated. Read his complaint, in page after page of lurid detail that reads like the script from a 50s exploitation film titled "Prostitution: Communist Threat to America's Children?" for yourself: dart-v-craigslist.
I have not yet had time for full digestion of Dart's masterwork, but a few thoughts stand out:
- This appears to be a shakedown without legal merit. This is a civil suit, not a criminal action. The Communications Decency Act immunizes websites for postings by third parties (which the denizens of Craigslist's "erotic services" forum assuredly are), unless the site's very purpose is illegal. Presumably plenty of people use Craigslist for unpaid hookups that are entirely legal, unless Dart also intends to enforce antiquated sodomy and cohabitation laws in the future. The other exception to this shield is for violations of federal criminal law, and while interstate prostitution is a federal crime (remember the Mann Act?), this is not a criminal action, and Dart has no more authority to prosecute criminals in Illinois than I do. He isn't even a lawyer.
- The Communications Decency Act's shield preempts state law, and yes, it even preempts the municipal code of Chicago.
- It would appear that Dart was unable to get the Cook County District Attorney to go along for this ride. The suit was filed by private counsel, Daniel F. Gallagher, Paul O'Grady, and Christopher P. Keleher of Querrey and Harrow in Chicago, all of whom I congratulate for drafting some of the most wretchedly purple prose I have ever seen in a legal pleading. Truly outstanding, guys.
- Isn't this killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Come on, guys, if you want to end prostitution, use the Craigslist! If Craigslist makes it so easy to find a prostitute for Johns, surely it makes it just as easy for cops.
- Doesn't the sheriff of Cook County have better things to do than suing Craigslist? Or did crime and corruption in Chicago end with the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich?
- Depositions in this case, if it ever gets that far, should make for endlessly entertaining reading. I particularly want to know how many Cook County users of Craigslist's "erotic services" forum are cops, as well as how many of the posts on said forum are "stings" set up by cops masquerading, or not masquerading, as whores.
Once again, read the complaint. If you live in Chicago, note the multiple references to "the Sheriff's constant surveillance of Craigslist's erotic services," and consider how Tom Dart uses his time when next you have an election.