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Ex Parte Myron Allenstein

A trial judge in Etowah County, Alabama, imposed a blanket gag order on one hundred plaintiffs and their lawyers, who were suing an exterminating company over its business practices, forbidding them from making any statements about the litigation “or its surrounding circumstances” any place except in court. The exterminating company argued variously that the comments about it were defamatory, constituted improper advertising for more business, and risked polluting the jury pool even though no trial date had yet been set. Public Citizen represented the plaintiffs and their lawyers in seeking a writ of mandamus from the Alabama Supreme Court setting aside the gag order as an improper prior restraint of speech. We also filed a motion to stay the gag order pending full review by mandamus. Without ever ruling on the stay motion, the Alabama Supreme Court ultimately reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the protective orders on the ground that they were unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.