Can A Court Silence You For Life?

You may be under the mistaken impression that the only remedy for a defamation claim is monetary.  Well, that was the case (essentially) until the California Supreme Court had something to say about it last year in Balboa Island Inn v. Lemen (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1441.
The owner of a restaurant and bar sued a nearby resident for nuisance, defamation, and interference with business. The case went to trial and the restaurant owner prevailed on all causes of action and the court issued a permanent injunction, preventing defendant (among other things) from making defamatory statements about the restaurant. The defendant appealed the decision and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted review. The Court held that the injunction in question was overly broad, but that the defendant’s speech:

"would not be infringed by a properly limited injunction prohibiting defendant from repeating statements about plaintiff that were determined at trial to be defamatory."

This means that a court has the power to stop you from speaking or writing about a given person or business for LIFE with regard to certain specific statements, which a judge or jury deem to be defamatory at a trial. A permanent injunction would not appear to apply to subsequent and different “defamatory” comments, however.
The bottom line is that California courts CAN enjoin speech permanently.

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