The Second Department determined Family Court had properly prohibited father from posting blogs disparaging the child’s relatives on social media, but that the restrictions on future speech should have been more narrowly tailored to the needs of the case:
“A prior restraint on speech is a law, regulation or judicial order that suppresses speech on the basis of the speech’s content and in advance of its actual expression” … . A party seeking to impose such a restraint bears a “heavy burden of demonstrating justification for its imposition” … . Such party must demonstrate that the speech sought to be restrained is “‘likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest'” … . An order imposing a prior restraint on speech “must be tailored as precisely as possible to the exact needs of the case” … .
Here, that portion of the order which directed the father to erase, deactivate, and delete “any existing blogs and likenesses” was “not tailored as precisely as possible to the exact needs of the case” … . Specifically, this restriction required the father to delete “any existing blogs and likenesses,” regardless of whether the blogs or likenesses relate to the child, the mother, the mother’s family, or the instant proceedings…. . Matter of Walsh v Russell, 2023 NY Slip Op 01522, Second Dept 3-22-23
Practice Point: As long as the restrictions on future speech relate to the family court case the constitution is not violated. Here father could be prohibited from posting blogs disparaging the child’s relatives and likenesses of the child. The order to delete past posts was also proper. But the restrictions on future speech were too broad in that they went beyond the needs of the case.