Supremes Likely To Slap Down Johhnie
The Supreme Court appeared roundly unsympathetic yesterday as a lawyer for Cochran tried to defend an injunction issued by a California judge against Ulysses Tory, a disgruntled former client who picketed outside Cochran's Los Angeles office with signs describing him as a liar, cheat and worse.
The injunction bars Tory, along with his agents and representatives, from picketing or even speaking about Cochran in any public forum, apparently forever. A California appeals court upheld the injunction and Tory, backed by numerous press and free-speech organizations, asked the Supreme Court to strike it down in Tory v. Cochran.
Cochran's lawyer, Jonathan Cole, portrayed the injunction as Cochran's only possible remedy for years of verbal abuse and attempted extortion by Tory. Suing Tory for defamation afterward would yield little in damages from Tory, who has few assets.
This injunction is very broad. No speech. Forever and ever. No matter what the context. As Justice Breyer noted, the injunction could be construed in such a way as to prohibit Tory’s attorney, Erwin Chemerinsky, from even mentioning Johnnie Cochran during the course of oral arguments.
The good news is that no justice seemed sympathetic towards Cochran’s position. In light of previous case law, it is almost unthinkable that the justices will uphold the injunction. But that a judge would ever consider such an expansive limitation on speech is pretty scary.