The Volokh Conspiracy
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Attempt to Vanish My Article About Attempt to Vanish Other Articles
My article was about Kelly Hyman v. Alex Daoud, in which a court order seemed to command all Internet "services" to remove material that mentions plaintiff or her husband (retired federal bankruptcy judge Paul Hyman).
I wrote about Hyman v. Daoud in November (reproduced below), but three days ago Google got the following takedown request from someone:
NOTICE TYPE: Defamation
Legal Complaint: Google provided this person with my confidential court order….
URLS OF ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY MATERIAL: https://reason.com/volokh/2020/11/24/overbroad-injunction-used-to-try-to-vanish-articles-about-daughters-property-lawsuit-against-father/
The order I wrote about was attached to the request. There was no indication, though, of what was supposedly defamatory about what I wrote; and though the request claims the court order is confidential, that's not true: I just confirmed that the order is available on the Miami-Dade County court records site (search for local case number 2012-044972-CA-01 and go to docket number 38). [UPDATE: Just to be clear, based on my research on how Google deals with such matters, I very much doubt that Google will actually deindex my article based on this request.]
I e-mailed Ms. Hyman to ask her for some more explanation for what was thought to be defamatory or confidential here. I can't be sure that she was the one who submitted this request, directly or through an agent, but she would seem to be the likely beneficiary; and in December she had e-mailed me to ask me to remove my post, though I said no to that request. I have not heard back from her, but if I do, I will post an update.
Here's the original post:
Alex Daoud had been mayor of Miami Beach from 1985 to 1991, but was then convicted of bribery and various other charges. Some years later, he arranged a real estate deal together with his daughter, Kelly Hyman (a lawyer and occasional political commentator)—but that went bad, and led her to sue him. The case dragged on for years, and unsurprisingly got a good deal of media coverage, such as in the Miami Herald, on the local CBS affiliate, and in the Real Deal (South Florida Real Estate News).
Hyman also alleged that Daoud or people working with him had posted various derogatory things about Hyman and her family (which includes her husband Paul Hyman, a retired federal bankruptcy judge), at sites named "atrociousattorney.com," "avariciousadulteress.com," "despicabledaughter.com," and the like. As a result, the parties entered into an Agreed Order to Take Down Internet Posting Related to Kelly Hyman, Paul G. Hyman, Jr., [and other family members], in which Daoud was ordered to remove such posts.
So far, that's fine; parties are generally entitled to enter into such agreements. But here's the twist: After imposing the obligations on Daoud (who was a party to the agreement), the order went on to purport to bind third parties, who weren't parties (and to my knowledge weren't even notified that their rights were being adjudicated):
FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that within ten (10) of being furnished a copy of this Order any internet-related services, internet service provider, host provider and/or search engine shall
remove and cause to be removed from any Site (including the web sites themselves and all URLS and links, even if they change) all statements, posts, social media, or videos or documents related to directly or indirectly to this lawsuit, and/or [the Hymans] and/or any website or posting defamatory, slander, or any statements against [the Hymans] … including, but not limited to the Sites [listed earlier in the order].
remove and cause to be removed any derogatory references to Kelly Hyman including, but not limited to any reference to Hyman as an "adulteress," "blackmailer," "whore," "despicable," "liar," and/or any derogatory and/or negative comment about Kelly Hyman.
remove or cause to be removed any derogatory reference to Paul G. Hyman, Jr., including, but not limited to any reference to him as "prenup paul," any judicial complaint and/or any derogatory comment about him including but not limited to any alleged misconduct.
remove and cause to be removed statements, documents, videos, and/or postings about this lawsuit, Kelly Hyman v. Arnold Daoud; related to the house located at 1750 Michigan Ave, Miami Beach, Florida; any communication between Kelly Hyman and Arnold "Alex" Daoud; and/or any libelous, defamatory, and/or slanderous websites, videos, internet posts and/or social media posts about [the Hymans], which was or is created directly or indirectly by Daoud.
And Google has indeed been asked, on the strength of this order, to deindex not just items that may have been posted by Daoud, but also mainstream media articles (see here and here):
And Google was also asked to deindex two items that criticize Judge Paul Hyman, which do not appear to be linked to Daoud, and which in any case consist of copies of documents filed in other matters:
This appears to be the court's fully approving an order proposed by Ms. Hyman's lawyers.
I expect that Google will see through this, and will realize that it's not actually bound by the order (despite what the order says), because it had never been made a party to the case (and wasn't acting in concert with a party). And I expect that Google will also conclude that it shouldn't deindex the mainstream media pages (and the criticisms of Judge Hyman) even voluntarily, because there's no basis for thinking that there's anything false and defamatory there.
Still, I think the court erred in approving the overbroad agreed order, which on its face purports to bind entities that had never agreed to it. (I have e-mailed Kelly Hyman and her lawyers to get their side of the story, but haven't heard back from them.) [UPDATE: See here for an odd response I got from one of the lawyers after I put up this post.]