Normally, Garrido v. Krasnansky, a divorce case playing out in Vermont family court, would be of little interest to anyone but the couple involved. But the court has ordered the husband to stop posting blog items about his wife and their crumbled marriage, possibly turning an ordinary divorce into a much broader battle over free speech on the Internet.
The husband, William Krasnansky, posted what he calls a fictionalized account of the marriage on his blog late last year. His wife, Maria Garrido, complained to the judge overseeing their divorce, who ordered Mr. Krasnansky to take down “any and all Internet postings” about his wife and their marriage pending a hearing next month.
Mr. Krasnansky, 51, says the order amounts to a prior restraint, a rare restriction of speech before publication, and a violation of his constitutional right to free speech. His lawyer, Debra R. Schoenberg of Burlington, Vt., has asked Judge Thomas Devine of Washington County Family Court to vacate the order and dismiss Ms. Garrido’s motion for immediate relief.
The order has surprised some experts in First Amendment law, who say it constitutes a prior restraint and appears too broad to be constitutional, especially since no hearing or trial has been held.
The dispute also highlights some still-murky questions about free speech in the Internet era, particularly the extent to which someone can use a so-called gripe site to air grievances, even if they are labeled fiction.
“It’s a whole new area for the law to contend with,” said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the law school at Washington and Lee University and a First Amendment scholar. “It’s a byproduct of the digital world meeting the ancient world of romance, and the law is struggling a lot to find the right balance.”