Charlotte lawsuit pits reality TV feud against freedom of speech

The Charlotte Observer has reported on a lawsuit between a reality TV show personality and his critics (some of whom are also on television). The article explains that the judge is expected to “ban future Facebook postings attacking” the plaintiff’s military record until the trial has concluded.

The usual avenue for redress in a libel case is a lawsuit after the fact, not a court order preventing publication. A court order that prevents First Amendment speech before it has taken place is called a prior restraint.

The article quotes SMVT attorney Hugh Stevens:

During last month’s hearing on the injunction, Caldwell talked about finding “a balance” between the constitutional protection of speech and the potential damage to Teti, said Hugh Stevens, the attorney for defendant Monique Haina and the longtime legal counsel for the N.C. Press Association. (The lawsuit accuses Haina of posting defamatory statements against Teti on numerous websites.)

When the judge asked to hear Stevens’ thoughts about the injunction, the lawyer said he told Caldwell “that any ‘prior restraint’ on free speech … is unconstitutional.”

Teti already has an alternative path, Stevens said: Take his accusers to court, “which he is already doing.”

You can read the whole story here.

[Full disclosure: SMVT represents one of the defendants in the lawsuit].