The Supreme Court of Virginia livened up the lull between Christmas and New Year’s with an order vacating the preliminary injunction in Dietz Development, LLC v. Perez. Dietz has everything–First Amendment Issues, appellate procedure, and a sexy social media angle.
It’s probably the latter that first got Dietz into the Washington Post. In short, Perez, a homeowner, was dissatisfied with Dietz’s work as a contractor, so she posted negative reviews on the online forums Yelp and Angie’s List. She also accused the firm of invoicing her for work that it hadn’t done, and intimated that it may have been involved in stealing her jewelery.
Dietz sued for defamation and asked for an injunction directing Perez to remove the negative postings and preventing her from making similar statements in the future.
Dietz sought a preliminary injunction. The trial court heard evidence and issued an injunction directing Perez to remove or modify certain posts.
This is going to get ugly.
And so it came to pass. Perez got some help from the ACLU and Public Citizen. She filed a petition for review on her behalf under Code Section 8.01-626, which basically allows immediate review of orders granting or denying an injunction. The statute says that petitions for review are directed to a single justice, but in practice they’re reviewed by panels of three justices.
Perez assembled a very persuasive petition for review, arguing principally that (1) the trial court’s ruling was a constitutionally impermissible prior restraint, and (2) equity will not enjoin a libel.
Perez filed her petition on December 26. Two days later, the Supreme Court of Virginia vacated the injunction. Think about that: two days, starting on the day after Christmas, to review the record, consider the law, and issue a ruling. As a person who’s colossally unproductive during the holidays (witness my blog output), I stand in awe.
Anyway, back to the action. Justices Lemons, Goodwyn, and Powell ruled that the circuit court’s order was defective because it did not specify the time during which the injunction would be effective, as required by Code Section 8.01-624. The Court also ruled that Dietz had an adequate remedy at law.
So what can we take away from Dietz?