First Amendment

Injuction against blogger critical of Miami Heat owner is overturned by appeals court

A Florida appeals court has overturned an injunction against a blogger whose sole topic is criticizing Miami Heat part-owner Ranaan Katz, saying the lower court wrongly applied the state’s exception to First Amendment concerns for invoking prior restraint, reports Popehat.

The lower court merely considered allegations that Irina Chevaldina’s blogging was both defamatory and, particularly, a tortious interference with business relationships. There was no proof of such interference, the Third District Court of Appeals said in its opinion (PDF), and thus Florida’s exception to the prior restraint rule under the First Amendment does not apply.

“Angry social media postings are now common,” wrote Judge Vance Salter for the court. “Jilted lovers, jilted tenants, and attention-seeking bloggers spew their anger into fiber-optic cables and cyberspace. But analytically, and legally, these rants are essentially the electronic successors of the pre-blog, solo complainant holding a poster on a public sidewalk in front of an auto dealer that proclaimed, ‘DON’T BUY HERE! ONLY LEMONS FROM THESE CROOKS!’”

A problem would arise, the court said, if the complainant with a poster entered the dealership and harangued customers or threatened violence, but that in that instance there is well-established law which would provide remedy. “The same well-developed body of law allows the complaining blogger to complain, with liability for money damages for defamation if the complaints are untruthful and satisfy the elements of that cause of action. Injunctive relief to prohibit such complaints is another matter altogether.”

Katz, a minor owner of the professional basketball team, owns a real estate development company. Chevaldina is a former tenant, and was represented by Marc Randazza of the Randazza Legal Group and Jeffrey Crockett of Coffey Burlington in her appeal of the injunction. Popehat provides more coverage of the ongoing legal saga.

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