Free Speech

Florida Senate Member Gets Restraining Order Against Critic

Fortunately, the Florida Court of Appeal has just reversed.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Logue v. Book, handed down today (by Judge Mark Klingensmith and Melanie May, with Judge Cory Ciklin dissenting without opinion):

[Sen. Lauren Frances Book] is a public advocate for child abuse victims and promotes strict policies related to sex offenders. [Derek Warren Logue] is an outspoken opponent of sex offender laws. {In 2001, an Alabama court convicted [Logue] of improper relations with a minor.} [Book] filed for an injunction alleging [Logue] was harassing and cyberstalking her. The trial court held a hearing and took testimony from the parties and witnesses, after which the court entered the injunction….

In support of her request for an injunction, [Book] alleged three instances of offending conduct: (1) [Logue]'s protest at the end of a children's march in Tallahassee; (2) his appearance and conduct at a New York film festival; and (3) his social media postings on his website, blog, and other social media platforms…. [Book] expressed her fear of [Logue] and testified to her contact with law enforcement to ensure her safety and that of her young children.

The First Instance—The Tallahassee Protest

Testimony revealed [Logue] protested, and encouraged others to join his protest, against the children's march in Tallahassee. He stood at the side of the road, across the street from the State Capitol, holding a three-by-three-foot handwritten sign protesting [Book]'s advocacy of sex offender registration laws. His protest included a diorama of a homeless camp and a commode chair bearing the title, "King Ron's Throne[,]" {a reference to Book's father[, a powerful Florida lobbyist -EV]}. Law enforcement had been notified of the protest in advance, and there were no untoward incidents reported regarding [Logue's] conduct.

The Second Instance—The Film Festival

[Book] was scheduled to attend a film festival in New York for the screening of a documentary about sex offenders in which both she and [Logue] appeared. She knew [Logue] would attend the film festival and arranged for security to be in place. [Logue] sat three rows behind her during the documentary.

When the documentary concluded, [Book] walked to the front of the theater to take questions. When [Logue] took the microphone, he asked [Book]: "how can you sit there and talk about how people on the registry don't deserve a second chance when your father … is a convicted criminal and he got a second chance?" A law enforcement officer in attendance testified that [Logue] asked the question in a loud, aggressive manner and pointed his finger at [Book] as he asked it. However, other witnesses also said [Logue] never left his seat in the theatre before he asked this question, nor did he attempt to approach [Book] at any time.

[Book] responded. She was then immediately escorted away from the stage by security, and the microphone was taken from [Logue].

The Third Instance—The Website and Social Media

Testimony and evidence established [Logue] maintained a website and other profiles on social media platforms professing his opposition to sex offender legislation. [Logue] posted [Book]'s home address and pictures of her home on his website. On his other social media platforms, [Logue] also posted a video of a song containing an obscene title and lyrics, as well as a cartoon depicting a tombstone with an obscene reference to [Book]. {A secretary for [Book]'s father also testified to an anonymous phone message she received indicating that [Book] and her father were in danger.} [Logue] "tweeted" that the song perfectly depicted [Book]. However, [Logue] neither directly communicated with [Book] about these posts, nor sent them to her or any of her associates by email, text, or otherwise.

Other Testimony at the Hearing

Law enforcement testified that it viewed [Logue] as a credible threat to [Book] and described steps undertaken to ensure her safety. The FBI investigated [Logue] while local and state law enforcement provided security for [Book]. The investigation revealed [Logue]'s Alabama conviction and a domestic violence injunction.

Although he did not evaluate [Logue], a psychologist testified, over [Logue]'s objection, to the factors used to assess risk[:] "So if you have all those factors together, someone with an agenda, somebody who affiliates with others with that same agenda, somebody who increases their approach, somebody who's angry or has angry outbursts, somebody who announces their intentions in terms of what they're going to do, all of those things together can significantly increase an individual's risk potential."

The trial court granted the petition and issued the injunction. The court ordered [Logue] to have no contact with [Book] directly, through a third party or:

"anyone connected with [Book's] employment or school to inquire about [Book] or to send any messages to [Book]. The [appellant] shall not publish any statement threatening the [Book]. It also ordered that [Logue] could not go to, in, or within 500 feet of the [Book]'s residence or place of employment; 100 feet of the [Book]'s vehicle; or 1,000 feet of [Book]."

On appeal, [Logue] argues the trial court erred in issuing the injunction for three statutorily-required reasons. First, he argues his actions serve a legitimate purpose in advocating against restrictive legislation adversely affecting sex offenders. Second, he claims that his social media activities do not constitute "a course of conduct directed at a specific person" as required by section 784.0485, Florida Statutes (2016). And third, [Logue] asserts that [Book]'s subjective fear does not satisfy the objective "reasonable person" standard required by the statute.

[Book] claims that: [Logue]'s actions are threats that serve no legitimate purpose; [Logue]'s actions were "directed" at her; his postings threaten her safety; her fear is reasonable because [Logue] is a convicted child molester and has had a domestic violence injunction previously issued against him; his actions have placed her and her children in fear for their safety by advertising her home address; and, the trial court properly entered the injunction.

"Section 784.0485 … allows an injunction against stalking, including cyberstalking." "A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking …."

"Harass," in turn, "means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose." … [T]o be entitled to an injunction for stalking, the petitioner must allege and prove two separate instances of stalking. "Each incident of stalking must be proven by competent, substantial evidence to support an injunction against stalking." When considering the sufficiency of the evidence, "[c]ourts apply a reasonable person standard, not a subjective standard, to determine whether an incident causes substantial emotional distress."

A. "Conduct That Serves No Legitimate Purpose"

[Logue]'s Tallahassee protest was by all accounts peaceful—even if unpleasant in its scope and message. Each party is a vocal advocate for opposite positions on sex offender laws. This is an issue currently debated within what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once described as the "free trade in ideas." True, one side of this debate has far greater public support than the other, but that does not make [Logue]'s advocacy illegitimate.

As John Stuart Mill wrote, "even if the world is in the right, it is always probable that dissentients have something worth hearing to say for themselves, and that truth would lose something by their silence." In short, [Logue]'s protest served a legitimate purpose even as objectionable as it may be.

B. "A Course of Conduct Directed at a Specific Person"

There is no doubt that [Logue]'s posts were aimed at [Book]. However, our court and the Second and Third Districts have interpreted "a course of conduct directed at a specific person" to exempt social media messages from qualifying as the type of conduct covered by section 784.0485, Florida Statutes…. "Unlike email communication, … posts to one's own Facebook page are not directed at a specific person but are instead posted for all of the user's Facebook 'friends' to see, depending on the user's privacy settings." "[A]ngry social media postings are now common. Jilted lovers, jilted tenants, and attention-seeking bloggers spew their anger into fiber-optic cables and cyberspace. But analytically, and legally, these rants are essentially the electronic successors of the pre-blog, solo complainant holding a poster on a public sidewalk in front of an auto dealer that proclaimed, 'DON'T BUY HERE! ONLY LEMONS FROM THESE CROOKS!'"

Here, not only were the posts not directly transmitted to [Book], but the photo of her home and her street address were publicly-accessible in relation to the political action committee she ran at the same residence. Although the posts understandably caused [Book] concern, they were not "directed at a specific person" as defined by caselaw.

The song and video, although vulgar and distasteful, were posted on various social media platforms and were not sent directly to [Book] in any form. "[W]here comments are made on an electronic medium to be read by others, they cannot be said to be directed to a particular person."

The cartoon was also not sent directly or otherwise to [Book], but appeared on [Logue]'s social media accounts. While the cartoon was an intense expression of ill-will toward [Book], it did not satisfy the statute's requirement that it be directed to a specific person. See id.

C. The Objective Reasonable Person Standard

[Book] pleaded and proved that she was in fear of [Logue] due to his actions, but her subjective fear cannot be the basis for the injunction's issuance. "Courts apply a reasonable person standard, not  a subjective standard, to determine whether an incident causes substantial emotional distress." However, we need not make this determination because the Tallahassee protest, [Logue]'s attendance at the film festival, and the social media posts did not satisfy the statute's requirements to support the injunction.

D. Conclusion

We live in times where violence occurs all too frequently and an ordinary day may turn into a horrific tragedy. So, it is necessary for courts to be vigilant in reviewing petitions such as the one filed in this case. Notwithstanding that vigilance, courts must also adhere to the Constitution and the laws enacted by our legislature.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated: "[O]ne of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace. Though few might find respondent's statements anything but contemptible, his right to make those statements is protected by the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech and expression."

Florida case law has mandated that threats via social media be directed to the individual—not by content, but by delivery—to fall within the purview of section 784.0485. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and expression, even if distasteful and vulgar. Although [Logue]'s position may be socially abhorrent, he has a First Amendment right to express his views. While we understand and appreciate [Book]'s fear, the First Amendment protects [Logue]'s despicable speech and his right to make it. For this reason, we must reverse the injunction.

{[Logue] also argues the injunction was a prior restraint on his free speech. We need not reach this issue because it is moot due to our reversal of the injunction. We do acknowledge the unique issue raised by the distance from which [Logue] was ordered to stay away from [Book]'s place of employment. Here, that employment includes Florida's Capitol Building, which effectively denied him access to a key means of political and constitutional expression—the ability to petition Florida's government officials.}

Judge May joined the court's opinion, but wrote a separate concurrence:

I concur with the majority because Florida's statutory scheme and case law dictates the outcome. I write to express my concern that in the day and age in which we live social media postings, such as those involved here, have led people to lash out and wreak havoc on our children, families, friends, and communities.

Recently, a man was arrested for sending pipe bombs to a number of legislators allegedly as a result of social media encouragement. Indeed, international terrorists have been radicalized through social media. And, our elections have now fallen prey to manipulated social media.

Perhaps thought should be given to whether the law should provide some protection for those at which social media directs its attention, and others are motivated to act; such as, the circumstances pleaded and proven by [Book] in this case.

NEXT: Bernie Sanders Is Right That the 'Working Class' Is Shrinking. He's Wrong To Suggest That's a Bad Thing.

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  1. “loud, aggressive manner and pointed his finger ”

    A court actually considered this probative evidence. Amazing.

    1. If you want a good laugh, you should read Lauren Book’s closing brief in the original case. It is amazing that a judge took it seriously but then Davis Letterman had a restraining order against him by a woman who claimed the comedian was sending her subliminal messages.

      And for the record, the only person who thought I was loud and pointing aggressively was Lauren Book. I was the third out of five people who asked her questions, I asked my one question and sat down after I got her snide remark, which, by the way, was a personal attack about my record, which she gets wrong all the time.

      PS: She’s obviously paranoid. She has claimed within the past year that she was the target of both the MAGA Bomber and Epstein.

      1. Are you: Derek Warren Logue?

        I think your past – a conviction for improper relations with a minor – colors my perception of your comments.

        There is a real, and meaningful difference between whether you ‘can’ do something as opposed to whether you ‘should’ do something. Clearly, this distinction is lost upon you.

        1. For example, you shouldn’t allude to the death of your opponent when there are kids involved, and I think you know this. If that cartoon is still up, you should take it down.

          1. Yes, I am Derek Logue. And welcome to the First Amendment, Atlas_shrugged.

            By the way, arch1, you aren’t getting the entire picture anyways. First off, I did not make a video about her, I posted the video of a song called “You are a C*nt” by Kat McSnatch, a person with no ties to me whatsoever, in response to other comments made between me and fellow Twitter folks after Lauren Book called the registration office claiming I called her a c*unt in hope they would arrest me. So I did not make the video nor was the song about her. I did make THIS video about Lauren and her dad, though:

            https://www.liveleak.com/view?t=uDwrL_1526695160

            The only thing I’m guilty of is not watching that Kat McSnatch video in its entirety before posting it because I merely declared I found the official Lauren Boo theme song.

            This same Lauren Book loves to make outlandish claims. Just within the past year, she claims to have been targeted by Jeffrey Epstein AND the MAGA Bomber.

            Perhaps instead of being one-sided and hating on me because of a record, you should look at the Book family and see why they deserve the contempt I have for them.

  2. “Perhaps thought should be given to whether the law should provide some protection for those at which social media directs its attention,”

    Perhaps thougth should be given to your removal from the court.

    1. This is your cue to go on social media and tell the world where the disssenting judge lives, where he eats lunch and where he will be speaking next month, so that you can voice your civic concerns that obsessed male a-holes are not being given free rein to harass public officials.

      1. He held a sign in public, asked a question at a public meeting without approaching her and made posts on his own website.

        She was not harassed. Not one bit.

        Not a fan of free speech or petitioning the government for redress of grievances are you.

        1. That’s what I find so concerning about this case. She had a chance to put forth the most egregious examples, and they turn out to be fairly mundane political actions. Yes, they personally attack her father’s history. However, that’s politics. This is essentially stating that supporting some political opinions is illegal. The judge involved should be censured.

        2. It’s clear Lauren Book doesn’t think that anyone guilty of a sexual offense against a child is entitled to an opinion regarding any sex offender legislation; that they should just sit down, shut up, and take it. She’s a victim. She’s totally unwilling to take an objective view of any issue surrounding child sexual abuse or sex offender legislation. She and her father are on a relentless and PERSONAL CRUSADE to absolutely destroy those on the FLA registry by a thousand legislative cuts. Shame on her and her father for using public office to settle a private score!

      2. Scott, I love the First Amendment, and if you abnd Lauren hate it so much, North Korea might take you both. For once, Florida judges actually remembered they still have to abide by the US Constitution. No hanging chads here, bro.

      3. You obviously have no respect for the First Amendment or for the rights of registered citizens to seek redress of wrongs from the government. More people need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire over these cruel AND SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN INEFFECTIVE laws.

    2. 100% agree with BfO on this one.

      That sentence simply cannot be said by a state judge.

      1. Oh no, now you’ve radicalized me through social media.

    3. “the law should provide some protection for those at which social media directs its attention, and others are motivated to act”

      What a stupid sentence, both in content and structure.

  3. “Perhaps thought should be given to whether the law should provide some protection for those at which social media directs its attention…”

    Thought has been given. The proposal is rejected. The same proposal has been made at every innovation in communication. In their respective days, that charge was levied against television, comic books, radio, romance novels, newspapers and the printing press. The hyperbolic fears have never turned out to be warranted. The current social media frenzy is no different.

    1. I have to disagree. Actual harassment has occurred.
      For example, recall the attacks received by the Covington school children. Doxxing does have a lot a problems for private people.

      On the other hand, she is a public official with public contact information. That doesn’t apply. Persuading people to petition a government official is a first amendment right.

  4. “We live in times where violence occurs all too frequently”

    Violence is at near-historic lows, both in this country and world wide. This sort of irresponsible fear mongering is why so few people realize that.

    1. In my lifetime and circumstances, 1964-1976 were particularly dangerous; today is relatively peaceful.

      But am wary of those who exaggerate danger to justify some clamp down or ban.

  5. For two years, I have had to put up with this blatant abuse of power from the Book Crime Family. Today I have been vindicated by the appeals courts.

    I have protested Lauren Book and her powerful lobbyist father because they are responsible for the unique homeless registrant crisis in Miami, starting with the law named after Lauren Book that forced registrants to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.

    From day 1, I have received harassment froma person living in Ft. Lauderdale. She repeatedly called my registration office in an attempt to get me arrested over my peaceful demonstration. She also lied in court about the nature of my protests and referred to me and all of my supporters as pedophiles. She has called me and my supporters monsters, creeping crud, ticking time bombs, and incurable. Yet, I was never given the same level of consideration for protection because I’m a registered citizen.

    It is amazing that I found even this small measure of justice in a state that proudly proclaims it is “scorched earth for sex offenders.” There will be protests, AND lawsuits. I endured a lot of pain and suffering due to Lauren Book’s blatant abuse of the law. Bu I won’t allow the Books to silence me any more.

    1. She also lied in court … and referred to me and all of my supporters as pedophiles.

      I mean, you did rape a child. “Pedophile” seems fair, if not generous.

      1. Was rape involved? His web site claims that he kissed an underage girl (when he was 28, so a large age difference). ED states she was 11.

        Not that kissing an 11 year old when you’re 28 is anywhere near reasonable, but it’s significantly less bad than raping her.

      2. Unless you are a licensed psychologist and have evaluated me in person, then you cannot make that assessment.

        It also does not detract from the fact Lauren Book is a pathological liar.

    2. Look, I will support your right to petition the government and attempt to stop the unreasonable restrictions that make life and reform essentially impossible. The scarlet letter regulations are put on people far too quickly and have too far reaching implications, which make it essentially impossible to live.

      However, given the details of your crimes, do not expect me to like you. Improper activities with an 11 year old are not something that people forget lightly.

  6. Book is a Democrat Party “Millennial” woman. The only thing that is surprising is that she’s married to a man, as opposed to being a bitter single feminist or “married” to a woman.

    1. “Millennials” are so damn scary.

      1. Not scary. More pathetic. The only thing scary is that they have votes.

        1. Yes, I can see how that scares you in particular.

          1. People who think socialism is a great thing and who ardently support homosexual “marriage” because they have “gay friends whose relationships are just as good as your and mine?”

            Yes.

  7. Other than the PI it doesn’t seem like much of a case for a protective order.

  8. Generation Snowflake (she’s 34) is now old enough to get elected to office.
    This won’t turn out well.

    1. Lauren Book ran unopposed in FL Dist 32 after the district was gerrymandered so she would have no competition. Her daddy is the most powerful lobbyist in Florida despite past convictions for fraud and illegal campaign contributions. As a freshman senator, she was made Pro Tempore, a position generally reserved for veteran legislators. She sat on the Senate Appropriations committee so she can give her Lauren’s Kids charity millions while still acting as CEO of said charity. Her only accomplishments involve sex offense legislation because that is literally all she does.

      Oh, but she’s about to risk all of this by trying to pass a bill blocking any abortion restriction bills from being considered without 50% of the legislature being women. I’m sure the Republicans will stop mollycoddling her now. Guess we’re about to find out just how “untouchable” she really is.

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