Virginia Supreme Court Reverses Preliminary Injunction Against Alleged Libel

Public Citizen has details on the case, including the court documents. Here’s Public Citizen’s summary (paragraph break added):

A contractor sued a woman who posted an unfavorable review of his services on Yelp and Angie’s List, alleging defamation in a number of respects, and sought a preliminary injunction. The trial judge held a preliminary injunction hearing and took testimony from the plaintiff and the defendant; he denied the preliminary injunctions in all respects save two, but ordered the defendant to revise one of the statements in her post using words crafted by the judge, and to refrain from addressing a specific subject in any published review on the subject.

We drafted a motion for reconsideration for defendant’s trial counsel to file, reminding the court of the rule against prior restraints and of the fact that this rule flatly forbids any preliminary injunctions against repetition of allegedly libelous statements, then filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court of Virginia. Without waiting for a response from the winning plaintiff, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed with a terse unpublished ruling, finding that the preliminary injunction was not justified and that, in any event, the plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law.

For analysis of the decision — which doesn’t cite the First Amendment, but which reaches what I think is the correct result under the First Amendment — see Steve Emmert’s Virginia Appellate News & Analysis blog. For my thoughts on why preliminary injunctions against alleged libel are generally unconstitutional even though permanent injunctions (following a full hearing on the merits) are often constitutional, see here.

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