D.C. High Court Opines on Injunctions Against Speech About People
From Mashaud v. Boone, decided today by the D.C. Court of Appeals—the District’s equivalent of a state supreme court, though one that generally sits in 3-judge panels—in an opinion by Judge John Fisher, joined by Judge Phyllis Thompson:
The trial court entered a civil protection order (CPO) against appellant Lauren Mashaud based on a finding that he stalked appellee Christopher Boone by sending emails and Facebook messages to Mr. Boone’s coworkers, family, and friends informing them that Mr. Boone had engaged in an extramarital affair with Mr. Mashaud’s wife….
Mr. Mashaud’s wife (Ms. W) was working as an intern at a consulting firm when she began an affair with Mr. Boone, a vice president of the firm…. Two months [after leaning of the affair], Mr. Mashaud sent an email to three senior employees of the consulting firm, “cc’ing” Mr. Boone at his personal and work email addresses. This email stated its intent “to bring a matter to your attention that may be a violation of [the firm’s] Code of Conduct and/or other policies, procedures, business ethics, and character or standard”— namely, that Mr. Boone and Ms. W had been “involved in an extramarital affair that took place, primarily, in the workplace.” The message went on to state that “[a]side from the potential sexual harassment claims this situation presents, it also involves the inappropriate use of company resources and assets” as the two “have used company time and company resources to further their affair.” Mr. Mashaud’s email concluded:
“Christopher Boone was previously sent a no contact email from my wife on May 11, 2013 (as attached), but he continues to ignore our request and fails to respect our boundaries to allow my wife and I to heal and to regain the integrity of our marriage …. I will anticipate a response from you once you have investigated these concerns and taken appropriate corrective action.”
Attached to Mr. Mashaud’s email were copies of several email exchanges between Ms. W and Mr. Boone. Mr. Boone testified that upon receiving this email he felt violated, threatened, and embarrassed. The evidence showed that Mr. Boone replied to the email, stating his willingness to meet and talk the matter through, but that Mr. Mashaud did not respond.
About three months later, Mr. Mashaud informed some of Mr. Boone’s friends and family members of the affair through Facebook. As Mr. Mashaud explained in his testimony, Mr. Boone’s cover photo and the list of people who had “liked” it were publicly available on Facebook, and for the price of one dollar Facebook allowed users to send messages to any other user, even if the two had no connection. Mr. Mashaud paid this fee and sent messages to at least fifteen users who had liked Mr. Boone’s photo.
These messages included much of the same information as the email to the consulting firm, stating that each recipient “should know the kind of person Christopher Boone really is,” that Mr. Boone had “had a sexual affair with [Mr. Mashaud’s] wife,” and that Mr. Boone showed he lacked “integrity and respect for himself” by “fail[ing] to respect the boundaries of a married woman.” Attached to these Facebook messages was a photo of Mr. Boone and Ms. W with another firm employee. Mr. Boone testified that when he learned about the messages he again felt violated and threatened, confused as to how Mr. Mashaud had learned his friends’ and family members’ contact information, and worried for their personal safety.
The evidence at the hearing also showed that Mr. Mashaud created a blog—called “The Power of Light and Truth”—in which he addressed issues relating to the aftermath of affairs. The publicly accessible blog mentioned Mr. Boone by name and included links to his social media accounts and his firm biography. When Mr. Boone saw the blog, he filed a police report. He also initiated the CPO action at issue in this case, alleging that Mr. Mashau
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