Unconstitutional Prior Restraint Against Lifetime Movie About Murderer Christopher Porco

Tuesday, a New York trial judge temporarily restrained the Saturday Lifetime broadcast of a movie about murderer Christopher Porco; the judge accepted the plaintiff’s allegation that the movie was likely “fictionalized” and therefore likely constitutionally unprotected. But preliminary injunctions against alleged libel violate the First Amendment, because they are “prior restraints” — restraints on speech entered before a full adjudication on the merits that the speech is constitutionally unprotected. Likewise, the restraining order in this case, formally under a New York misappropriation-of-name-and-likeness statute but in essence based on a claim that the speech is false, is also unconstitutional.

Lifetime has appealed, and the appellate judge has said that she will rule by noon Friday; I expect that she will vacate the restraining order.

UPDATE: Commenter broman notes that the appellate judge has now stayed the restraining order. There is still to be a hearing on Apr. 10 to decide whether the restraining order should be entirely vacated (as I expect it will be), but for now the broadcast can go on with no legal impediment.