U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Illinois watchdog blog subpoenaed in defamation case; subpoena later withdrawn

Incident Details

Date of Incident
November 28, 2023

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the subpoena demanding Edgar County Watchdogs’ communications and testimony related to a civil defamation case.

November 28, 2023

Illinois-based blog Edgar County Watchdogs was subpoenaed on Nov. 28, 2023, for testimony and communications about the parties to a civil defamation case, but the subpoena was subsequently withdrawn on Dec. 20.

The subpoena had been filed with the 20th Circuit Court in St. Clair County by Gerard Scott Jr., the plaintiff in the defamation case. It ordered a representative from the Edgar County Watchdogs, which is based in St. Clair County outside St. Louis, to testify on Jan. 3, 2024, and to bring all written correspondence related to the suit to the hearing.

Edgar County Watchdogs reported that Scott, a Village of Caseyville employee and St. Clair County board member, filed the suit against researcher and blogger Bradley VanHoose.

VanHoose had sought information about an invoice paid by the village for an automobile repair via Freedom of Information Act requests and by asking questions of local officials. VanHoose later informed Edgar County Watchdogs that he believed an employee of the village had used taxpayer funds for repairs on a privately owned vehicle, according to the blog.

Edgar County Watchdogs co-founder and reporter John Kraft initially told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that it would seek to quash the subpoena under the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act, which protects reporters’ sources from compelled disclosure.

Before that motion could be filed, the two parties agreed that the subpoena would be withdrawn, Kraft and the plaintiff’s attorney, Douglas Stewart, told the Tracker. Stewart, in an email to Kraft, wrote, “I believe that the information that I seek is readily available from others.”

The subpoena was withdrawn during a Dec. 20 hearing, the blog reported.

The Tracker has documented multiple other subpoenas against Edgar County Watchdogs, most recently in 2020.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].