Cockrum v. Trump
About the Case
Three politically active Americans are suing the Donald Trump campaign and political consultant Roger Stone for violating their privacy and civil rights in the 2016 presidential election. They allege that the Trump campaign played a role in their private information being distributed worldwide after the widely publicized hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The complaint alleges that, after Russian hackers stole plaintiffs’ emails and published them through WikiLeaks in July 2016, their private information was published to the world as part of a calculated political strategy. Although investigations by Congress and the Special Counsel are still ongoing, the complaint alleges that key actors in the Trump campaign were involved in coordinating the cyber campaign waged by Russia. The citizens’ social security numbers, medical information, and details of their private lives were made permanently public, causing them great harm.
In one case, the release of a voter’s private information led to severe emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. The case of this voter, named Mr. Comer, who is identified in this lawsuit, is a chilling example of what can go wrong when private information is released to the world. Publication of Mr. Comer’s emails revealed details about his sexual orientation that he wanted to keep private, leading to discriminatory slurs through phone calls where callers that had seen these emails threatened violence.
CLC is arguing that the hack violates the citizens’ privacy, according to District of Columbia law. Additionally, CLC notes that conspiring to harm Americans because of their participation in a presidential election is a violation of federal civil rights law. No American should fear the consequences of participating in our democracy. That is why it is so important to protect voters’ identities from being stolen or having their personal, private information posted across the Internet for the world to see.
What’s at Stake
CLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Dec. 8, 2017 outlining how the federal civil rights law claim applies to the case, in partnership with Professor Theodore M. Shaw, Julius Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
The hack and release of sensitive personal information of donors and campaign staff is one of the many concerning issues that resulted in the Russian hack into our elections. In this instance, potentially damaging information about individuals has been exposed. While only three people are filing this lawsuit, it actually affects all those who seek to be involved in the political process, regardless of political affiliation. Our political system must safeguard against intimidation and the breach of privacy, so the stakes of this case for the future of our democracy are very high. The last thing our democracy needs is to intimidate and deter individuals from expressing their political views for fear of their personal information being publicly disclosed.