Virginia Supreme Court reverses injunction against online critic’s speech

constitutionThe Virginia Supreme Court on Friday reversed a lower court preliminary injunction ordering Jane Perez not to post certain criticisms of Dietz Development, LLC.   The ruling came two days after Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed an appeal of the preliminary injunction on behalf of Perez.

“As we begin the New Year, the Supreme Court’s ruling is a great reminder of the importance of free speech in our society,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, who is representing Perez. “Dietz will still have the opportunity to try to prove in court that he was wronged by Perez’s speech, but the court cannot suppress her speech in the meantime,” she added.

The controversy originated when Perez posted reviews of Dietz Development on the websites Yelp and Angie’s List, in which she described a number of problems she had when she hired the contractor to do some work on her house.   Dietz Development sued Perez for defamation in Fairfax County Circuit Court, and asked the judge to order her to remove her posts and refrain from any further criticism while the lawsuit is pending.

The judge refused to enjoin any of Perez’s criticism of the contractor’s work, but on December 7, 2012, he ordered her to remove her description of how she discovered some jewelry missing when only Dietz Development had a key to the house. He also ordered her to remove language about the outcome of a suit for nonpayment brought against her by Dietz.

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