Baskin v. Hale: Georgia Court of Appeals Case Ruling

Normally, I dislike discussing deep domestic and family cases that involve marriage, children, custody, alimony, and the like. It is beyond the scope of what I do and interested in. I only bring this case up because Eugene Volokh brought attention to his case through his Volokh Conspiracy on the Washington Post and it is regarding an injunction forbidding the parties from publicly criticizing the judge and the handling of his case.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/07/08/georgia-appellate-court-overturns-custody-order-that-barred-both-parents-from-commenting-about-the-case/

It would appear that despite this ruling, the case is not quite done yet because there appears to be a filing signaling intent to bring it the to GA Supreme Court's attention: http://www.gaappeals.us/docket/results_one_record.php?docr_case_num=A15A2232

The conclusion is very instructive towards Georgia judges that might try to become vindictive towards parties that publicly might criticize and complain about them.

Our review of the order, the record, and the transcript of a status conference indicates that the trial court was primarily concerned with Baskin's public criticism regarding the litigation, including the court's rulings, as well as the involvement of third parties who, among other actions, questioned the accuracy of court transcripts.

As the United States Supreme Court has stated,

[w]hatever differences may exist about interpretations of the First Amendment, there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs. Although it is assumed that judges will ignore the public clamor or media reports and editorials in reaching their decisions and by tradition will not respond to public commentary, the law gives judges as persons, or courts as institutions no greater immunity from criticism than other persons or institutions. The operations of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges are matters of utmost public concern.[32]

Certainly, we recognize the authority granted to trial courts to restrict a parent's communications and postings on social media during the pendency of a divorce or custody proceeding, as the trial court did in Lacy.[33] But we cannot condone the superior court's attempt in this case to restrict the parties' and lawyers' right to publically criticize the court and the litigation for the next ten years. Given the absence of any evidence of "imminent danger to a compelling interest of such magnitude that the restraint on the parties' [and lawyers'] speech would be warranted," as well as the superior court's failure to properly conduct the balancing test and narrowly tailor the restrictions, we vacate the permanent injunction issued in this case.
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