Mark Byron was angry about a domestic relations court protective order that ordered him to stay away from his wife and affected his custody of his son. So he vented on his personal Facebook page, stating:
". . . if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husbands life and take your son’s father away from him completely – all you need to do is say that you're scared of your husband or domestic partner...”
When his wife learned of it, her lawyers filed a motion to have him held in contempt for violating the protective order that prevented Byron from doing anything to cause his wife “to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury.”
First Amendment pundits are saying that the judge's order violates Byron's First Amendment rights. Certainly it raises an interesting question whether compelling a person to publish something written by another tramples Byron's freedom of expression. In a case decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2009, Cavanaugh v Smith, the trial court granted Cavanaugh’s request for a PPO that prohibited Smith from stalking Cavanaugh and from “writing or communicating slanderous statements with Cavanaugh’s employer, community, & associates.” The Court of Appeals affirmed. Cavanaugh dealt with the issue of stalking in the form of email communications, phone calls, etc. and threats of future actions.
In this electronic age, certainly we are seeing more and more the opportunities and examples of ways in which people are unable to control their impulses or to exercise common sense (or common decency) when romantic interests are thwarted. Often, though, the harassment is part of bullying. The question is: How far can a court go to protect the victim?
You may read the article about Byron's case here in the Cincinnati Enquirer: Judge: Jail or Facebook apology, Martha Neil, February 24, 2012
The Cavanaugh case can be reviewed here: Should a personal protection order restrain speech?
Note: Image above from the Cincinnati Enquirer