These two cases involve a blogger’s relentless drumbeat of publishing allegations regarding Petitioners on a website, allegations which the Petitioners claim are false, defamatory and libelous. The case began when the Petitioners initiated a defamation action against the blogger and his wife and obtained a preliminary injunction ordering the blogger to:
- Cease and desist immediately from publishing (including oral publication to any third party), posting online, or allowing to be posted online any defamatory statement about Petitioners, including, but not limited to, any statement that Petitioners had an extramarital affair, that Petitioner Riley fathered a child out of wedlock with Petitioner Duke or anyone else, that Ms. Duke had an abortion, that Petitioner Riley paid or was in any way involved in paying to Ms. Duke or anyone else any monetary funds from any source related to said alleged extramarital affair or abortion, that any such funds were paid by Petitioner Riley or anyone acting on his behalf in exchange for Ms. Duke having an abortion or were in any way related to an affair or an abortion and/or as part of an effort to conceal an abortion, and that Petitioner Duke received any such funds. The Respondents are ordered to take all efforts to ensure that the subject information is taken off any and all websites that they enable, host, own and/or operate and that said information is not allowed to be posted or in any way published pending further Order of this Court. These efforts shall include, but not be limited to, taking the subject information off of the website known as “Legal Schnauzer,” taking the subject information off all Twitter accounts that any Respondent maintains, and removing the subject information from all video-sharing and video-posting websites including, but not limited to, Youtube.
The preliminary injunction further provided:
- In an effort to further limit the dissemination of Respondents’ libelous statements, this Court has previously ordered that all filings, pleadings, and exhibits filed in these cases shall be filed under seal and that their contents shall not be published - either in writing or orally - in any medium to any third party. Accordingly, Respondents shall not publish or cause to be published in any medium - either in writing or orally – this Order, any filings, pleadings, and exhibits filed in these cases, or the contents of said filings, pleadings, and exhibits.
We filed a motion for leave to file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief asserting that the injunction runs afoul of both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, § 4, of the Alabama Constitution in that it is a prior restraint. In addition, we asserted that the sealing of the record in these cases unconstitutionally impinges upon the public’s right of access to judicial records and judicial proceedings. The Court accepted our brief. A week later, a hearing was held on the Petitioners’ motion for a permanent injunction and the Court, finding the stories published were false and defamatory, entered the permanent injunction that was more narrowly drafted than the preliminary injunction. The Court, however, ordered that the record be unsealed.
The case is now closed.