Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vermont Blogger Can Air Dirty Laundry, But Can't Snatch and Scan Wife's Journal

I want to follow up on the recent story about the Vermont divorce case in which the angry husband chose to vent his frustrations and anger at his wife and her lawyer on his personal blog, after which the divorce judge ordered him to take down "any and all" internet postings related to his wife and his marriage. (My original post is here.)

Apparently the judge came to his senses in a subsequent hearing several days later, and in Garrido v. Krasnansky, No. F 466-12-06 (Vt. Fam.Ct, Washington, Cty., Jan. 14, 2008) vacated his prior order on free speech grounds. Furthermore, the judge indicated in this latest ruling that if in fact the comments were defamatory, there might be a remedy, but it would be elsewhere through a suit for defamation, and not through the instant attempt to restrain the husband's speech in divorce court.

But this was not an all-out victory for the angry husband. The judge narrowed his previously overbroad ruling yet continued to prohibit the husband from posting scanned excerpts from his wife's personal journal, which she had left behind in the marital home, as the court found he had no right to take her journal, and by doing so he went out of the realm of speech and into that of conduct - conduct that could be, and is in fact, subject to regulation by the divorce court. (For more on this, see E-Commerce and Tech Law Blog: Vermont Divorce Court Finds First Amendment Right in Husband's Angry Blog).

This trial court about face was a small victory both for common sense and for free speech. But I bet there will be other courts that try to muzzle angry family court litigants, and we will eventually see some appellate cases that will more clearly fix the legal boundaries of their out-of-court speech and conduct.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

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