State Judge Prefers Prior Restraint To The First Amendment, Orders Blogger To Delete Supposedly Defamatory Posts

from the rushing-to-judgment dept

Preliminary restraining orders targeting speech are almost always unconstitutional. It's not just the First Amendment getting the shaft when judges do this, but the adversarial court process which is supposed to allow defendants to present a rebuttal before the judge starts handing out remedies.

Waiting until the facts are in is a good rule of thumb just about anywhere, but especially in this case where a judge handed out a preliminary injunction after having seen nothing more than a super-vague complaint. The defendant -- accused of libel per se and various forms of secondhand harassment -- now has the ACLU on his side. (via The Volokh Conspiracy)

In a case raising important First Amendment issues for the Internet age, the ACLU of Rhode Island has taken on the defense of a Massachusetts blogger who was ordered by a Rhode Island Superior Court judge to “immediately remove” from his website “any and all posts, blogs, and comments” regarding a person who sued him for libel, without even hearing from the internet publisher. Considering the court order a classic example of censorship, ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger has removed the case to federal court for adjudication.

To read the complaint is to be irritated from start to finish. It's not just the allegations, which are weak and vague. It's the font, which appears to indicate the Rhode Island court system has almost zero rules governing the formatting of court submissions.

Kathryn Narcisi -- temporarily represented by state legislator/attorney Christopher T. Millea -- claims Turtleboy (blogger Aidan Kearney) defamed her by posting about her ill-fated hospital visit on his blog. Despite the term "libel per se" being used by Rep. Millea, there doesn't appear to be any libel in the post, which is largely made up of screenshots of Narcisi's Facebook posts and comments. The blogger provides a little commentary, but none of the statements Kearney added could have harmed anything more than Narcisi's feelings.

So, I suppose that's why Narcisi is also suing over damaged feelings. From the complaint [PDF]:

AS PROXIMATE RESULT OF THE ABOVE-DESCRIBED PUBLICATION, PLAINTIFF HAS SUFFERED LOSS OF HER REPUTATION, SHAME, MORTIFICATION, AND INJURY TO HER FEELINGS, ALL TO HER DAMAGES IN TOTAL AMOUNT TO BE ESTABLISHED BY PROOF AT TRIAL.

Ok, then. The lack of defamation in the post apparently isn't a problem for Judge Susan McGuirl, who went ahead and signed an unmodified copy of Narcisi's proposed restraining order [PDF], which prevents Turtleboy/Kearney from:

CONTACTING, ASSAULTING, MOLESTING, STALKING, CYBER STALKING, CYBER BULLYING, BULLYING, HARASSING, THREATENING, ANNOYING, SLANDERING OR OTHERWISE INTERFERING WITH PLAINTIFF AT HOME, AT WORK, THROUGH THIRD PARTIES, ON THE STREET, OR ELSEWHERE.

Also:

THE DEFENDANT SHALL IMMEDIATELY REMOVE ANY AND ALL POSTS, BLOGS, AND COMMENTS REGARDING THE PLAINTIFF, EITHER BY HER NAME, KATHRYN NARCISI, OR THE PSEUDONYM “FAILURE SWIFT”, BE IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM THE DEFENDANT’S WEBSITE AND ALL OTHER SITES ASSOCIATED WITH THE SAME.

Needless to say, not a single post has been removed. If anything, it's encouraged Kearney to dig deeper into Narcisi's past and seeming fraudulent activities.

All of this could have been avoided if the court had simply allowed Kearney to submit something in his defense -- or at least notified him and let him attend a hearing on the restraining order request. But the court didn't. It also didn't happen to notice Kearney resides in Massachusetts -- not Rhode Island -- so the court is a bit out of its jurisdiction. Still, attempted prior restraint is a bad look for judges who are supposed to stay within Constitutional boundaries when issuing orders.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, aidan kearney, christopher milea, defamation, due process, free speech, kathryn narcisi, prior restraint
Companies: turtleboy


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 12:42pm

    Wait, so she's named "Narcisi" and is overly concerned about her image?

    Some days the jokes practically write themselves...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 1:43pm

    So does this get past your moderation ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 1:55pm

    Got to cover ALL the angles/corners/edges after all

    CONTACTING, ASSAULTING, MOLESTING, STALKING, CYBER STALKING, CYBER BULLYING, BULLYING, HARASSING, THREATENING, ANNOYING, SLANDERING OR OTHERWISE INTERFERING WITH PLAINTIFF AT HOME, AT WORK, THROUGH THIRD PARTIES, ON THE STREET, OR ELSEWHERE.

    I have the strangest feeling that whoever wrote that utter joke of a restraining order simply found a thesaurus, looked up one of those words and then just listed every variant they could find...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 4:32pm

      Re: Got to cover ALL the angles/corners/edges after all

      i rather suspect the idea is to publicly imply that Kearney is doing all of those things. I wonder if they even actually want a viable complaint and a real court date, unlike the peculiarly suspicious hearing which generated this restraining order.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 3:02pm

    States Rights

    Considering they filed the case in the wrong state I'm not sure what they wanted.

    But one thing is for sure - Scammers love to misuse the system to shut down complaints.

    Is Narcisi a self-help author?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 4:19pm

      Re: States Rights

      Is Narcisi a self-help author?

      I thought she was in the email list business.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 4:52pm

      Re: States Rights

      I thought she was the wife of Lucius Malfoy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 5:36am

      Re: States Rights

      Is Narcisi a self-help author?

      Probably, given that she claims to be suffering from cancer AND auto-immune disease (which she calls "automatic" disease half the time) and that if she doesn't receive holistic treatment right now, she will die.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 5:59am

        Re: Re: States Rights

        holistic treatment

        I'm not going to go out on a limb and say all holistic treatment is a scam. That would be an absolute and unverifiable. But yeah, it's filled with scammers.

        Not as many as in the self-help book industry of course. That is, by nature, nothing but get rich quick scams from top to bottom.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        wshuff (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 7:47am

        Re: Re: States Rights

        She also claims that her husband gives her a weekly chemo shot. My mother had to go to a facility where certified people wearing space suits administered that stuff.

        But after spending a couple of hours getting sucked into the crazy vortex, it looks like she's working hard to get on the deed to her new husband's house so she can divorce him and keep the home. She's already had him arrested once so she's making her paper trail. Look for the GoFundMe to hire a defense attorney as soon as this lawsuit gets bounced.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 3:10pm

    Wow, that complaint is crap. It doesn't specify what posts on the website are libelous, and it admits that it's not the blogger who's doing the threatening or harassing.

    Plus the "lawyer" can't even spring for a domain name for his practice. "@Verizon.net" doesn't really look all that professional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 3:34pm

      'Libel!' 'What is?' 'You know, that stuff...'

      Can't remember the exact quote(think it's a Popehat one), but I seem to remember someone talking about how if someone claims defamation/libel but can't/doesn't actually point to any examples it's a pretty good sign of a bogus lawsuit.

      If someone's going to sling around accusations serious enough to warrant legal intervention then providing actual evidence and examples should be the absolute minimum required, a bar that unfortunately whatever judge okay'd the restraining order couldn't be bothered to enforce.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      missanonymous, 4 Jul 2019 @ 4:07pm

      Re: verizon.net

      How the heck is he still using Verizon email? Verizon. did away with that a couple years ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MissAnonymous (profile), 4 Jul 2019 @ 4:10pm

      Re: verizon.net

      How the heck is he still using Verizon email? Verizon. did away with that a couple years ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 3:45pm

    Oh this pisses me off like you wouldn't believe

    A really good and close friend of mine (of 20+ years) had a stroke just the other day (sunday night), while she was asleep (happy fucking birthday me!). she was rushed to the hospital, and tests were done IMMEDIATELY. - you know why, to find and correct the damage. Then straight into surgery to deal with the cause.
    She's already home. That's what happens with Stroke cases, it has to be dealt with quick. Luckily it seems she got REAL lucky, just some weakness, no loss of control on her left side.

    Now, I also happen to know how late night radiology goes. A good friend from school is a radiologist. He used to practice in London, but with Brexit, he moved to ireland. Every so often he's got to do 'on call' work, which means sitting at home, going through the scans that are sent to him, all night long. Since he's 5 hours off from me, he'll call me, and we'll chat, I'll keep him awake, so on. Sometimes he'll go quiet when he gets a rush job like... a stroke case.

    Oh, this woman makes my blood boil so much, exploiting and trying to play this shit for money. ARGH!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Katie, 2 Jul 2019 @ 4:30pm

      Re: Oh this pisses me off like you wouldn't believe

      She explains in her Facebook posts (you can find them on turtleboy sports) that she didn’t want to have an MRI done. So there may not? have had any tests to form her diagnosis.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Miles (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 4:48pm

    Isn't ButtHurt in the second degree a felony?

    I'm also curious if her insurance will cover her ButtHurt ointment. If not, she'll be financially ruined.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2019 @ 5:47pm

    Guys, I think we found out_of_the_blue!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 27 Jun 2019 @ 9:07pm

    This judge is finds Copperplate Gothic very persuasive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CharlesGrossman (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 11:48am

    What "Prior Restraint" Means

    The judge's foolish order may be unconstitutional for lots of reasons, but I don't get why it's called "prior restraint" -- doesn't that usually mean preventing someone from taking an action in the future? Here, the order is saying to take down materials that already have been published.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 12:19pm

      Re: What "Prior Restraint" Means

      Take it down, and then we will determine whether or not it is defamatory is acting prior to determining whether the order is required.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 2:20pm

      Re: What "Prior Restraint" Means

      It refers to a restraint on speech carried out prior to a legal ruling that the speech is unprotected -- like, say, a court order to take down allegedly defamatory blog posts before they are ruled to be truly defamatory.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 1 Jul 2019 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re: What "Prior Restraint" Means

        It refers to a restraint on speech carried out prior to a legal ruling that the speech is unprotected

        I don't think that's what it means.

        "Prior restraint (also referred to as prior censorship or pre-publication censorship) is censorship imposed, usually by a government or institution, on expression, that prohibits particular instances of expression. It is in contrast to censorship which establishes general subject matter restrictions and reviews a particular instance of expression only after the expression has taken place."

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_restraint

        "In First Amendment law, prior restraint is government action that prohibits speech or other expression before the speech happens."

        https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/prior_restraint

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 9 Jul 2019 @ 2:50pm

      Re: What "Prior Restraint" Means

      If you read the whole order, there is also an order to refrain from, among other things, “annoying” the plaintiff. It wasn’t just an order to remove her posts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 28 Jun 2019 @ 3:02pm

    I guess someone has a judge** in her pocket.

    **well, for now (till the review board gets done)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Katie, 2 Jul 2019 @ 4:27pm

    Go to turtleboy sports to read up on this gal. She posts publicly on Facebook, so any information out there is on her. Turtleboy did a three part series. Unfortunately, she gets her last name from husband #5, who used to be a well respected musician in Rhode Island. I encourage all to head over to the website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MissAnonymous (profile), 4 Jul 2019 @ 5:07pm

    KC Cancer Fraud In MY OPINON — MY OPINION —

    this is pissing me off, her fake cancer and shaved head. let me tell you something when you lose your hair you lose it all.
    http://www.tbdailynews.com/saving-metro-narcisi-part-2-restraining-orders-against-in-laws-kathryn-n arcisi-ruins-metros-career-and-reputation-businesses-diseases-and-fundraisers/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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