Court Upholds Preliminary Injunction Against Libel in Judicial Campaign
In this judicial election case, … Jennifer M. Medley … appeal[s] the September 30, 2020 judgment of the district court granting a preliminary injunction in favor of … [Judge] Christopher J. Bruno …, which enjoins Medley from airing or publishing a certain campaign advertisement.
Medley and Judge Bruno are both candidates in the November 3, 2020 election for Judge, Division F, in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans. Judge Bruno is the incumbent, who currently presides over Division F.
On September 21, 2020, Judge Bruno learned through a media outlet that Medley intended to air a television commercial … that evening during Monday Night Football. The commercial stated, in pertinent part, that Judge Bruno “is called judge by some and a deadbeat dad by others” and that “for 13 years [he] refused to pay a single dime in child support for his son” or provide his former wife with discovery regarding his income…. The district court granted [a temporary restraining order] … and scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing on September 30, 2020.
At the preliminary injunction hearing, the district court heard testimony from Medley, Judge Bruno, and Judge Bruno’s expert witness, attorney Steven J. Lane. The commercial and portions of the record from Judge Bruno’s divorce were introduced into evidence.
On September 30, 2020, the district court found that the commercial contains falsities as Judge Bruno did not refuse to pay child support or to provide discovery in his divorce proceedings. The district court rendered judgment, granting the preliminary injunction and ordering that Medley and those acting on her behalf …
are restrained, enjoined, and prohibited from distributing printed material, airing television or radio commercials, publishing, or causing to be published advertisements, or to post on social media sites statements, ads, comments, statuses, which falsely state that CHRISTOPHER J. BRUNO is a deadbeat dad or that he failed or refused to pay child support, or that he refused to provide discovery to his former spouse regarding his income, or any statement of suggestion that would lead a person of average intelligence to conclude that any of the statements were true and any such advertisement or posting shall be immediately taken down or removed….
On appeal, Medley abandoned her original defense as to the truthfulness of her statements against Judge Bruno. She does not now dispute that the commercial contains falsities, particularly as to her allegations that Judge Bruno refused to pay child support. Medley argues nowhere on appeal that these statements in her commercial are true. She now alleges in her appeal that “with respect to the issue of child support, he [Judge Bruno] used every available tactic to delay the support of his child.”
Furthermore, Medley seems to allege that she can now disseminate the commercial containing falsities because she did not knowingly make a false statement against Judge Bruno nor recklessly make a false statement. Medley’s only substantive argument on appeal is that she claims that the district court did not address the nature of her knowledge of the falsities in the commercial as being knowing, reckless, and/or negligent….
The United States Supreme Court has recognized a lack of First
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