Blogger Can Rant About Ex-Landlord And Heat Minority Owner
Leesfield found the defendants "have blogged extensively about the plaintiff and many of these blogs are arguably defamatory." She concluded the Katzes had "a substantial likelihood of ultimately prevailing on the merits of their claims."
However, Salter described her injunction as "a classic example of prior restraint on speech triggering First Amendment concerns."
The only exception would be where a plaintiff could demonstrate special harm of irreparable injury, Salter said. There was no proof Chevaldina's blog posts hurt prospective tenants.
At the hearing, a real estate broker testified he talked with the director of real estate for Subway. Concerns were expressed about the blog, but it didn't affect Subway's leasing decisions.
The remainder of Katz's evidence "fell woefully short of competent" evidence that any blog entry interfered with business, Salter said.
Jeffrey Crockett of Coffey Burlington in Miami, Chevaldina's attorney, said she is delighted that her free speech rights have been vindicated.
"Judge Salter's opinion is scholarly, insightful and well-written," he said. "It clarifies the law that applies to free speech rights and limits injunctions in suits like this one filed to prevent public criticism."
Crockett noted Salter considered bloggers the equivalent of an old-fashioned picket, who is allowed to express criticism freely as long as threats and interference are avoided.
Regardless of the ruling, Kluger said the case will proceed.
"There will be a day when a jury will look and see how false and mean-spirited her statements are, and I think they're going to award him substantial damages," he said.