Anthes v. Callender
A disappointed customer of a firm that specializes in helping would-be entrepreneurs locate venture capital financing posted public criticisms on several review sites. The firm sued him for defamation in Maryland state court and, without giving him any notice or an opportunity to be heard, obtained a temporary restraining order, and then an extension of that order requiring the customer to remove all his criticisms and to refrain from posting any more defamatory statements. The case was removed to federal court, where the judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction, but also remanded the case to state court. That court, six months after the second TRO had expired, fined the customer $2400 at the rate of $100 per day for not moving quickly enough to try to have the criticisms taken down. We have entered the case on appeal, arguing that the post hoc contempt sanction represents a finding of criminal rather than civil contempt and must be reversed for failure to accord the customer the extra procedural safeguards required for criminal contempt, and that, in any event that preliminary injunctions against alleged defamation are forbidden by the rule against prior restraints and cannot be granted without notice. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, but only on the ground that the contempt sanction was criminal but was not preceded with the extra procedural protections that must be accorded in criminal contempt cases.