A Deputy Sheriff (Mr. Evans) sued his wife (Mrs. Evans) for
defamation, harassment, and invasion of privacy among other claims. Evans v. Evans (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1157. He moved for a preliminary
injunction. The trial court
granted it and entered an order enjoining her and her mother from: (1) publishing “false and defamatory
statements” about Mr. Evans on the Internet; (2) publishing “confidential
personal information” about Mr. Evans on the Internet; and (3) contacting Mr.
Evans’s employer “regarding [Mr. Evans]” except to call “911 to report criminal
conduct.” I’m going to focus on
the first part of the order.
Mrs. Evans appealed the order. The preliminary injunction order was reversed and the matter
was remanded to the trial court.
The portion of the order prohibiting Mrs. Evans from
publishing “false and defamatory statements” about Mr. Evans on the Internet
was held invalid as a prior restraint.
The court relied heavily on the Balboa decision, solidifying the concept
in California defamation law that an injunction prohibiting a defendant from
repeating specific statements before trial is invalid. Such an injunction may be only granted
with respect to specific statements, which are determined at trial to be
The court also determined that the order was vague and
overbroad since it failed to specify what future statements might constitute a
violation of the order. That the order
was limited to speech on the Internet was of no consequence to the court.
“The fact that the court’s prohibition on publishing false
materials applied only to speech on the Internet does not affect our
analysis. The courts have made
clear that speech on the Internet is accorded the same First Amendment
protection as speech in other forums.”
So what does this mean for defamation law in California?
It means the preliminary injunction is dead.
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