You May Be PROHIBITED From Making Fun of Raanan Katz! PROHIBITED!

Law

Back in June I wrote about Raanan Katz, one of the owners of the Miami Heat, and his legal crusade to stop people from being mean to him. I started by talking about his efforts to sue people for merely posting an unflattering picture of him, and finished with his lawyers' threats to sue Marc Randazza and his co-counsel merely for representing Katz' adversaries.

I have an update. It is this: sometimes, in court as in life, the bad guys win.

Recently Raanan Katz secured a jaw-droppingly ridiculous injunction from a compliant Florida judge against one of his adversaries. Marc Randazza and his co-counsel in the matter, Darren Spielman and Robert Kain, had argued quite persuasively that the injunction Katz sought would constitute lawless prior restraint prohibited by decades of precedent and the First Amendment. But Miami-Dade County judge Ellen Leesfield disagreed and issued a broad prior restraint injunction containing very little analysis.

Parts of the injunction might be defensible — for instance, to the extent it prohibits the defendants from trespass on Katz' property or coming near him or his family. But other parts are astoundingly broad and vague:

2. Defendants, IRINA CHEVALDINA, DMITRI CHEVALDINE, JOHN DOE, and all others acting by them, through them, with them, or on their behalf, are enjoined from directly or indirectly interfering in person, orally, in written form or via any blogs or other material posted on the internet or in any media with Plaintiffs' advantageous or contractual business relationships.

Now, the torts of interference with contract or with advantageous business relationships have specific elements and previously defined meanings, and there is caselaw discussing the interplay of the torts with the First Amendment. But framed this way, the injunction is impossibly vague: it forces the defendants to guess in advance at whether their speech will later be deemed by the court as an unprivileged interference with contract or business advantage. Given the deranged and entitled aggression of Katz and his attorneys to date, it seems likely that any criticism of him the defendants post may yield a motion to hold them in contempt of court. Also, the "all others acting by them, through them, with them, or on their behalf" extends the chilling threat to others not even named in the lawsuit. Does the injunction prohibit friends, family, supporters from writing critically about Katz? They are left to guess.

3. Defendants, IRINA CHEVALDINA, DMITRI CHEVALDINE, JOHN DOE, and all others acting by them, through them, with them, or on their behalf, are enjoined from directly or indirectly publishing any blogs or any other written or spoken matter calculated to defame, tortiously interfere with, invade the privacy of, or otherwise cause harm to Plaintiffs.

Once again, this term requires the defendants to guess in advance how any criticism of Katz will later be interpreted — whether it will be seen as defamation, tortious interference, or invasion of privacy. The "otherwise cause harm" kicker at the end transforms it to merely vague and overbroad into the realm of self-parody — plainly read, it suggests that the court has prohibited defendants and some ambiguous category of third persons from saying anything that hurts Katz's fee-fees.

As I said, Judge Leesfield offered barely any analysis in support of this broad prior restraint on the speech of the defendants and unidentified third parties:

This Court has broad discretion to enter injunctive relief, which may include enjoining defamation that is accompanied by other torts. See, e.g., Zimmerman v. D.C.A .. at Welleby, Inc. 505 So. 2d 1371, 1375 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987); Murtagh v. Hurley, 40 So. 3d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010); Azar v. Lehigh Corporation, 364 So. 2d 860, 862 (Fla. 2d DCA 1978); DeRitis v. AHZ Corporation, 444 So. 2d 93 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984).

Those cases simply don't support such a broad injunction. In Zimmerman the court specifically rejected a requested injunction to the extent it sought to enjoin picketing and displaying signs in opposition to a condominium developer, and only approved the injunction to the extent it prohibited specific speech not protected by the First Amendment. Azar upheld a temporary restraining order based on a finding that it was sufficiently specific because it very particularly explained whom the defendant could not contact, and under what circumstances. In DeRitis, the Court of Appeal remanded an injunction drafted much like this one with instructions to make it more specific — and that case involved a business competitor, not an outside critic: "Such an order should be confined within reasonable limitations and phrased in such language that it can with definiteness be complied with, and one against whom the order is directed should not be left in doubt as to what he is required to do."

I often say here that vagueness in a threat of a defamation suit is the hallmark of meritless thuggery. Vagueness in a judicial opinion prohibiting speech is worse — it is the hallmark of judicial indifference to the First Amendment, either calculated to chill protected speech or negligently heedless of its tendency to chill speech. The injunction does not reflect any serious effort to comply with applicable precedent or the First Amendment.

Judging from his litigation strategy, Raanan Katz appears to be someone who thinks that his wealth should insulate him from the criticisms and rebukes that we lesser mortals must endure in America. He's got lawyers willing to pursue that theory on his behalf. In facing off against such people, there will often be setbacks, as reflected in this highly dubious injunction. The remedies are the same as they have always been: appeal, hope that a higher court will hew more closely to applicable precedent and constitutional rights . . . and speak more. Keep writing and talking about Raanan Katz's litigation campaign.

Of course, when you do so, you take certain risks. Raanan Katz and his attorneys — people who think they ought to be able to sue lawyers merely for representing his adversaries — might decide that you are acting "on behalf of" the defendants, and that therefore you are prohibited by law from "otherwise caus[ing] harm" to Katz. Since Katz seems to suffer from a very tender and easily bruised self-regard, such harm is very difficult to avoid. And how will a judge who issued such a broad and unprincipled injunction react if you are hauled before her? That might chill you — which is exactly what Katz, and perhaps the judge, want. What will you do about it?

Updated to add: I missed some of the most preposterous language of the injunction:

The Court, having reviewed the file, heard argument of counsel, considered limited testimony, admitted evidence, and being otherwise duly advised in the premises, makes no findings of facts as to actual violations of law by the Defendants, except that the Defendants have blogged extensively about the Plaintiff and many of these blogs are arguably defamatory. Although ultimately a defamation trial will be held, this Court ORDERS the Defendants not to enter defamatory blogs in the future.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

50 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Anglave  •  Nov 29, 2012 @10:10 am

    Where can I donate to support the appeal?

  2. David Aubke  •  Nov 29, 2012 @10:55 am

    Anglave, you sir (or madam) just made the list.

  3. Dan Weber  •  Nov 29, 2012 @10:58 am

    Ranaan Katz eats paste.

  4. Josh C  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:02 am

    Err, doesn't a court order to "not break X law" inherently present double-jeopardy problems? Or is this just a way to turn a civil case criminal?

  5. Art  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:06 am

    I once heard Ranaan Katz is actually part orangutan. From his mother's side.

  6. Bear  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:40 am

    Not being a lawyer, I am often astonished by the the sheer boneheadedness of many decisions. But this…

    WTF?

    "…makes no findings of facts as to actual violations…" but I hereby order you, and you, and you, and maybe him, possibly her, the Holy Roman Empire, and permanent residents of Tau Ceti not to do it — whatever the hell it might have been… or wasn't… or whatever — anyway (!?).

    Does Leesfield have a "property of" inventory tag plastered to her back? And does that question put me in violation of her order?

  7. Ygolonac  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:54 am

    Is there an ongoing "mysterious disappearance" of glass lightbulbs from the fixtures in that judge's office? And a corresponding rash of "plastic bags taped over the smoke alarm sensors"?

    The quoted text above would seem to indicate such…

  8. M.  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:55 am

    So, are there any photos of Ranaan Katz with his pets and/or female relatives which could be captioned "Ranaan Katz and dogs?"

  9. Captain Obvious  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:24 pm

    What will you do about it?

    This – Obviously :-)

  10. Rrr  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:43 pm

    Well, it is equally obvious upon its very face is that Ranaan Katz is not a son of a beech. Nor is, similarly, Miami-Dade County judge Ellen Leesfield, albeit mainly for genderally opposite raisins (dates consideredely being left out of the picture at this point-&squeeze). Nuts? – nutsoshure. Downpoor predicted. Tar is extra.

    Discclaimer: I'm certifiably everglad to never ever go floridian. Altogether too much crock. Also, I have no idea who these idiost are, except from the Paternal Post. Hey, Rannee, how do i collext me monnye? Not like lessfelt, ok – that's unnatural. Used, low demons.

    Oh also also, in my own wild fuurin MotherTongue, "son of a beech" as in "offspring of a certain tree" might alas be a synonym for "dickhead" – only I do clearly mean something quite alt's unnaturheadless instantly, ftr. Offer void where invalid so plz bring viable goat. YMMV. IANAL. YajeshattobethereMan. = Far Out

    Ceci n'est pas une parodie (or it would have been framed already)

  11. Ken  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:43 pm

    There's something very Jabba the Hutt-ish about his tongue protruding in that shot.

  12. Dan  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:47 pm

    On behalf of the entire world (including the defendants), Ranaan Katz is a dickwad.

  13. Grandy  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:51 pm

    Clearly the only response here is a Downfall clip.

  14. M.  •  Nov 29, 2012 @12:57 pm

    Seriously, "Ranaan Katz." He's practically self-parodying.

  15. W. C. Taqiyya  •  Nov 29, 2012 @1:01 pm

    The judge saw an excellent opportunity to help some lawyers make more money. On appeal, the injunction will be tinkered with a little bit and remanded with vague instructions, leading to endless motions, hearings and further appeals. This is a lawyer's dream.

  16. Brandon  •  Nov 29, 2012 @1:11 pm

    I heard from a generally reliable source that Ellen Leesfield enjoys watching videotapes of Ranaan Katz fucking sheep.

  17. Andrew  •  Nov 29, 2012 @1:17 pm

    Isn't an order "not to defame someone" effectively meaningless, except insofar as it creates two penalties (tort and contempt of court) for the one action?

  18. Joe Pullen  •  Nov 29, 2012 @1:26 pm

    There's something very Jabba the Hutt-ish about his tongue protruding in that shot.

    I was thinking something similar. But more like one of those garden lizards after it has recently dispatched a bug.

  19. Harry Lime  •  Nov 29, 2012 @2:45 pm

    For the record, it's "Raanan" Katz I believe, not Ranaan.

  20. mojo  •  Nov 29, 2012 @2:55 pm

    What's the penalty for telling a judge to "sit on it and spin"?

  21. Laura K  •  Nov 29, 2012 @2:59 pm

    BRANDON–

    MY GOD, WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE SHEEP!?!?

  22. AlphaCentauri  •  Nov 29, 2012 @3:06 pm

    " The remedies are the same as they have always been: appeal, hope that a higher court will hew more closely to applicable precedent and constitutional rights . . . and speak more. Keep writing and talking about Ranaan Katz's litigation campaign."

    Unless you're a sportswriter. Then you might want to play it safe and give the Miami Heat as little coverage as possible.

  23. TexasAndroid  •  Nov 29, 2012 @3:18 pm
  24. Colin  •  Nov 29, 2012 @3:45 pm

    I'm hung up on the injunction as against John Doe. "someone, we don't know who, or even if we have personal jurisdiction over the same, may not do X". Also, in the context here of the vagueness here, what is to say that I'm not John Doe? Maybe I need to join the suit to ensure I'm not John doe. Maybe you all do to! It is so vague, how can anyone tell?

  25. OH Krill  •  Nov 29, 2012 @3:49 pm

    Welcome to South Florida.

  26. M.  •  Nov 29, 2012 @3:52 pm

    Whatever, still sounds like "Raanan Katz and dogs" to me. The low fruit is just as tasty as all the rest!

  27. SPQR  •  Nov 29, 2012 @4:08 pm

    Brazenly, jaw-droppingly, unconstitutional.

  28. James Pollock  •  Nov 29, 2012 @4:31 pm

    Forgive my ignorance. Isn't irreparable harm a required showing for preliminary injunction? And isn't it categorically true that "irreparable harm" does not include anything you can obtain damages for in a court of law? (I realize that this is a legal question contrary to the wishes of the esteemed Mr. Katz, so I only dare ask because I'm fairly sure that I will not come under the jurisdiction of any Florida court.)

  29. Chris R.  •  Nov 29, 2012 @4:55 pm

    We should have a blog about how much a douche Ranaan Katz is day.

  30. NotPiffany  •  Nov 29, 2012 @5:42 pm

    Just to be safe, perhaps NBA fans in other cities should stay home when the Miami Heat comes to play their teams? I mean this Katz guy might decide that cheering for the other team insults him or something. (Mainly I say this because I think it would be funny for Mark Cuban to receive a bunch of letters explaining that fans won't be coming to a Mavericks game because they're afraid the Heat's owner would sue them.)

  31. Ancel De Lambert  •  Nov 29, 2012 @6:32 pm

    Raanan Katz enjoys placing ants in his jockstrap; they, as he puts it, "tickle so wonderfully."

  32. Alan Shortmancomplex  •  Nov 29, 2012 @7:30 pm

    I went to see if I could buy ranaankatz.com, but somebody else already bought it. CRYSTAL COX!

    Alankluger.com is still available.

  33. John David Galt  •  Nov 29, 2012 @8:59 pm

    Why don't we make fun of judge Ellen Leesfield, then?

    She's sure proven that you don't have to have a dick to be one.

  34. Matthew Cline  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:07 pm

    Say, what happened to the threatened lawsuit against Marc Randazza?

  35. Prohest  •  Nov 29, 2012 @11:48 pm

    I have it from unreliable sources that Raanan Katz blows goats for sexual pleasure!

  36. Matthew Cline  •  Nov 30, 2012 @12:25 am

    About the contempt filing mentioned on TechDirt: here is a copy of the contempt filing, which reference these three blog posts: one, two, three.

  37. G Thompson  •  Nov 30, 2012 @1:08 am

    Since this weird order now enjoins the whole known universe from doing anything, wouldn't that by itself be proof positive (would a court lie??) that Katz is not just a public figure but the most protected person of all time and therefore absolutely public, since the public by necessity of the order MUST know of him. This then absolutely puts a hguge spanner in the defamation claim these dicks are trying to proceed with.

    Oh and since Katz's own attorneys are by definition part of the "all others" as well, shouldn't they themselves be charged with contempt (and stupidity – though that's obvious) for the "otherwise cause harm to Plaintiffs" since this order they wanted has and will cause more harm and pain to Katz by the chilling effect of the Streisand Effect caused now the world/universe knows of this complete moronic dickwad who yes bears a striking resemblance to Jabba the Hut

  38. Joe Pullen  •  Nov 30, 2012 @5:44 am

    @Adam – OMG I thought you were kidding but you weren't

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: RANAANKATZ.COM
    Created on: 03-Jul-12
    Expires on: 03-Jul-13
    Last Updated on: 26-Sep-12
    Registrant:
    Reverend Crystal Cox
    PO Box 2027
    Port Townsend, Washington 98368

    It appears Katz may soon come down with a case of Coxitis. I can just imagine these two going up against each other and predict nuclear type explosions soon.

    Unfortunately the blogger caught up in all of this may end up looking the worse for Cox's involvement.

  39. Boxy  •  Nov 30, 2012 @7:54 am

    Actually, this could be interesting. Since Mark Randazza is a mutual foe of Crystal Cox and Ranaan Katz, maybe she's going to be nice to him, in her own psychotic way. Imagine a fansite, engineered by Crystal Cox.

    *Grabs popcorn*

  40. JustinM  •  Nov 30, 2012 @10:23 am

    I think a psych eval is in order for the judge in this case because there is no way a sane person could possible come out on Katz' side of this…. right?! *Rocks back and forth in the corner*

  41. Personanongrata  •  Nov 30, 2012 @10:55 am

    A hearty Bronx-cheer for Raanan Katz and Miami-Dade County judge Ellen Leesfield:

    Thppppppppt

  42. Sunioc  •  Nov 30, 2012 @2:00 pm

    Why haven’t we had an official response to the rumor that Raanan Katz raped and murdered a girl in 1990?

  43. Chris R.  •  Nov 30, 2012 @7:11 pm

    @Sunioc, if it weren't true, I'd deny it. I do wonder why he hasn't.

  44. JJB  •  Dec 1, 2012 @10:18 am

    I'm thinking that shortly after a South Florida judge leaves the bench the judge will find amazingly well-compensated employment with a venture associated with Mr. Katz. It is possible that friends and relatives have already hopped on the Katz Crazy Train to Wealthville. Of course, downright stupidity could be another possible explanation.

  45. AlphaCentauri  •  Dec 2, 2012 @8:34 am

    I think stupidity has to figure prominently. She's not doing him any favors with a ruling that will be so easily overturned on appeal.

  46. mojo  •  Dec 3, 2012 @1:56 pm

    "Enter defamatory blogs" can be read a number of ways, none of which are within the court's purview.

    Does it mean they cannot log on to a blog that is "defamatory"? Probably not, but we are dealing with lawyers here. Straining at gnats is core curriculum.

    Does it mean that the court has issued a nonsensical ind unenforceable order? That's my bet.

  47. Hugo S. Cunningham  •  Dec 6, 2012 @2:00 pm

    What provision does Florida have for impeaching judges? In my native Massachusetts, the legislature can send a "letter of address" (quite rare) to the Governor, who would have to sign off on it. If Florida's legislature has a similar power, I don't think legislators of either party would want to seek reelection while defending so flagrant an abuse of judicial power.

  48. andrews  •  Dec 8, 2012 @8:54 pm

    There is no provision for impeaching judges. For many, no doubt including the one in question here, there is an every-6-years merit retention election.

    The normal method for getting rid of unfit judges is to complain of violations of the canons to the Judicial Qualification Commission (JQC). A bad order, even one as patently hare-brained as this one, is most certainly not cause for removal. Were it otherwise, judges could not rule for fear that the offended party might have a connection into the JQC.

    That said, I must observe that it appears that the order was prepared by the offended plaintiff, and certainly shows the risks of judges simply signing orders prepared by the parties. We'd be better served if judges had to write their own orders, and in so doing were perhaps forced to reflect slightly. Would a real judge ever write an order imposing preliminary injunction which order expressly declined to make findings of fact?

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