Miami Heat Owner Wins Injunction Against Blogging Critic; Asks For Contempt After She Blogs More About The Case

from the free-speech? dept

Remember Raanan Katz? The Florida real estate mogul and part-owner of the Miami Heat, made some news earlier this year for suing Google and a blogger for copyright infringement after the blogger posted an "unflattering" photo of Katz. Katz, who was clearly annoyed at the blogger -- a former Katz tenant who is (to put it mildly) not a fan of Katz -- for blogging critical stories about Katz (including highlighting some earlier lawsuits Katz had been involved with and posting the related legal documents). In addition to suing for defamation, Katz purchased the rights to the "unflattering" photo the blogger, Irina Chevaldina, had posted of him, and then sued for copyright infringement. Google was included on the case for refusing to take down the photo. While Google was later dropped from the case (one assumes that someone somewhere finally realized that, perhaps that end of the suit wasn't going to end well), Katz has continued his case against Chevaldina.

Earlier this month, the judge in the case signed off on a ridiculously broad injunction against Chevaldina, that not only says that she can't "trespass" on Katz's properties, but that she can't blog anything that is intended to "otherwise cause harm" to Katz. That doesn't seem even remotely constitutional. Criticizing someone is protected speech, even if it may (or is intended) to cause harm to someone's business. And the "trespass" injunction may seem like no big deal, especially since trespassing is already illegal. But, in this case, the court has indicated that by "trespassing" they mean that Chevaldina cannot even go to any of the properties that Katz owns -- which includes stores and shopping malls. As Carlos Miller notes in the link above:
On Thursday, a Florida judge found no evidence that Katz suffered defamation or damages because of Chevaldina's blog, but nevertheless banned her and her husband from stepping on any of Katz's properties, which pretty much prevents them from visiting any of the local businesses in the community of Sunny Isles, which is known as Little Moscow for its high Russian population.

Judge Ellen Leesfield said they shouldn't want to visit these premises anyway because of their hatred for the man.

But Chevaldina said many of these business owners are their Russian friends who rent from Katz and invite them into their stores and restaurants.
That was earlier this month in a verbal injunction. Right before Thanksgiving, the judge signed off on the text injunction that Katz's lawyers wanted... and then Chevaldina posted a few blog posts on her blog, including a story about an earlier dispute between her and Katz, in which it was ruled that Katz cannot use a "trespassing" claim to keep her out of retail establishments that he owns. Then there's another post highlighting how courts have said that shopping malls and shopping centers are often deemed the equivalent of public places. While she doesn't do a particularly good job explaining what she's posting, it's not hard to figure out that she's highlighting some questions about the injunction against her, which seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do and a form of protected speech.

In response, however, Katz's lawyers have now filed for contempt charges against her, saying that those blog posts, which support her position that the injunction is improper, are in and of themselves, breaking the injunction. Get your head around that. While the blog posts may be a bit wacky, it seems way, way over the top to argue that such blog posts are in contempt of the injunction. It also raises serious First Amendment questions to suggest that you can't even discuss details of the case that you, yourself, are involved in.

On top of that, it's worth noting in the filing that Katz's lawyers still are claiming that Katz is not a "public figure." They've been claiming that since the beginning, because the bar to show defamation of a public figure is much higher. But the idea that Raanan Katz is not a public figure is preposterous. As detailed in a Miami NewTimes article from last year, Raanan Katz is, by any measure, a public figure.
In Sunny Isles Beach, Raanan Katz has a street and an official day named in his honor. His company, with its omnipresent "RK" basketball logo, seems to claim every other strip mall in North Miami-Dade. He's also minority owner of the Miami Heat....

Katz cuts a singular figure in Miami. Once an Israeli basketball star, he built a real estate empire in Boston before gobbling up a block of South Beach in 1984. Two years later, he bought into the expansion Heat franchise and has been a courtside fixture since then.
How can he continue to claim he's not a public figure?
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Filed Under: defamation, free speech, injunction, irina chevaldina, raanan katz


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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Nov 2012 @ 3:13am

    High Court, Low Court.
    Its good to be rich and have influence, you get special treatment... the best money can buy.

    I look forward to this Judge having the records of donations to the campagin, as well as any new toys or property acquisitions... but then I forget no one wants to challenge the obvious double standard.

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