Friday, July 15, 2011

Dad web site shut down

UCLA law professor and famous First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh writes about one of my fellow angry dads:
“Father Shall Take Down That Web Site and Shall Never on Any Public Media Make Any Reference to Mother At All, nor any reference to the relationship between mother and children, nor shall he make any reference to his children other than ‘happy birthday’ or other significant school events.” That’s the text of a judge’s oral order in Morelli v. Morelli, No. A06-04–60750-C (Diane Gibbons, J., Bucks Cty., Pa. June 6, 2011). If the father says anything about the mother in public, he could be sent to jail for contempt of court. The order isn’t limited to banning libelous statements (though I think even such a much narrower ban would itself pose constitutional problems, especially under Pennsylvania law), nor is it even limited to statements about minor children (though even that sort of order strikes me as constitutionally impermissible). Rather, the court order categorically orders the removal of a Web site, and prohibits all public statements — factually accurate or not — by one person about another person.

That strikes me as a pretty clear First Amendment violation; whatever the scope of family courts’ authority to protect children’s best interests might be, it can’t extend to criminalizing one adult’s public speech about another adult.
The web site is He appears to be complying, because his front page just has a link to the court order, and to complaints about it. But the original files appear to be still there, and you can get them by starting here. (Please don't tell the judge or the ex-wife!)

Like this blog, his web site is a blog about a divorced dad's family court hell. I did not see any real names on it. He refers to his ex-wife as PEW, for Psycho Ex Wife, and to himself as LM. He calls the judge JC, for Jucge Contempt.

His blog has lots of comments from readers who are grateful to hear of a case like their own. The guy was providing a useful service. I can see where the ex-wife would not like the armchair diagnosis of a borderline personality disorder, but he does not mention her by name and a man surely has a right to call his ex-wife crazy if she is battling him in family court for 7 years.

One of Volokh's commenters says:
This is daily stuff in family law court. Why is it suddenly being considered unconstitutional? Maybe there is hope after all.

There is a lot of scary stuff going on in family court.
That's right. This order is unusual in that it is so explicitly unconstitutional.

Update: Divorced dad's blog becomes free-speech test.


Anonymous said...

so it begs the question: is this guy going to appeal if it appears he has a good case?

Nothing yet from da judge on shutting yours down or is that part of the hearing that keeps getting continued?

George said...

It appears that he agreed to take the web site down, but he doesn't like being ordered to, so he is appealing.

I am scheduled to go back to court on the contempt charge. I will post more about that.