Statement Concerning Recent Suspensions

tl;dr -- the network of sites was suspended in protest of recent actions by Wizards of the Coast. For details, read on.

On December 21, 2015, news broke that Wizards of the Coast had suspended the DCI memberships of multiple people as a result of a recent leak of cards from an upcoming set. Among those suspended were a large number of the leading (L2 and L3) judges of the US Southeast region. Based on what information has become available since then, it appears that they were members of a Facebook group to which the leak had been posted, and that one member of the group made that information public.

This has caused, to say the least, much concern both within the judge community and the broader Magic community. On December 22, the network of Web sites and services was suspended and replaced with a message protesting the manner in which Wizards of the Coast had acted, and criticizing the statements and justifications given by Wizards of the Coast. I believe the original protest message has served its purpose of attracting attention to the issue, and I am gratified to see the messages of support for judges (not merely those suspended) and of criticism for Wizards of the Coast which have appeared on many sites and many social-media networks since the initial protest message went up.

At this time, the network of sites is returning to mostly-normal operation, although a prominent link to this message will be maintained on every page for an extended period of time.

However, I continue to have grave concerns about Wizards of the Coast's handling of the situation and of the implications it has for the relationship between Wizards of the Coast and the judge program and the larger Magic community. A rough summary of those concerns is as follows:

In an ideal world, Wizards of the Coast would, rather than doubling down behind vague official statements or dumping news just prior to a long holiday break (one presumes, with the hope that any criticism would have blown over by the time the holiday break was over) immediately take genuine action to respond to these concerns as well as other valid concerns raised by judges and by prominent players within the Magic community.

An ideal response would, to my eyes, involve at least:

  1. Immediately articulating a bright-line standard to which persons exposed to potential spoilers could refer to determine their responsibilities and/or liabilities. The community is too large, the network of discussion sites and groups is too diverse, the amount of attribution available on the internet is too scarce, to operate under statements as vague as those provided to date. Any person should be able to, upon seeing a spoiler of undetermined provenance, immediately determine whether their having seen it exposes them to risk of discipline and whether there are actions they can take to demonstrate good faith and avoid such discipline in the event a spoiler is later found to have been a genuine leak of confidential information. In the most ideal of worlds, this standard would be laid out in a manner legally binding upon Wizards of the Coast and all of its parent and subsidiary entities, contractors, and representatives. Until such a standard exists, no member of the community can feel safe or feel sure of their responsibilities and liabilities, and it should not be necessary to repeatedly ask, cajole, and even beg for such a standard to resolve this.
  2. Immediately placing on hold the suspensions of all judges who were suspended on December 21, 2015, and restoring them to their previously-held positions within the program, until such time as the JCC and/or RCAC can convene to hear their cases and determine a course of action, with the cases to be heard according to the procedures of those bodies and with the decisions of those bodies to take precedence over, and be enacted in place of, DCI disciplinary action imposed unilaterally by Wizards of the Coast. As both of these bodies are constituted of trusted senior members of the community, and explicitly constructed to be able to handle cases involving delicate or sensitive information, this should not be a concern for Wizards of the Coast and should, rather, be the natural process to follow as these bodies exist for the explicit purpose of handling discipline of judges and advising on actions and relations between Wizards of the Coast and the judge program.
  3. If the result of hearing by the JCC and/or RCAC produces a result of no suspension for one or more of the currently-suspended judges, Wizards of the Coast should immediately and publicly apologize to those judges in a forum at least as prominent as that in which the statements concerning their suspensions were issued, and take other reasonable steps to clear the names and reputations of those judges.

In the coming days and weeks I will be continuing to watch the actions of Wizards of the Coast and its representatives, weighing their responses to this crisis and making decisions concerning my own future relationship with Wizards of the Coast and the judge program. I encourage others to do the same, and if you have criticism I encourage you to add your voice to those now expressing their concerns to Wizards of the Coast.

— James Bennett, (for now) L3 and JudgeApps maintainer