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Free Speech

Can Cardi B Get an Injunction Stopping Tasha K from Repeating Libelous Statements?

Yevhen V says likely yes.


Singer Cardi B sued vlogger Tasha K for libel, and the jury came back with a verdict in Cardi B's favor (and a total damages award of over $4 million); the libelous statements included claims that Cardi B had herpes, had used cocaine, and had engaged in prostitution. Now Cardi B is seeking an injunction that would require Tasha K to remove all statements that the jury had found to be libelous, and to bar Tasha K from repeating those statements. (You can also read Tasha K's opposition.) Would such an injunction be constitutional?

Probably yes. In the 1800s and early 1900s, many courts had said that any injunction against libel is an unconstitutional "prior restraint"; civil liability and even criminal punishment for libel is allowed, but not an injunction.

But in recent decades, most states and most federal circuit courts have switched to allowing such narrowly targeted injunctions, if they are issued after a final determination (especially one at a jury trial) that the statements are indeed false and libelous. In particular, federal district courts in the Eleventh Circuit (where this case is being litigated) have taken the view that such injunctions don't violate the First Amendment; and Georgia courts have likewise held that the injunctions don't violate Georgia law. (To be valid, the injunction has to be consistent both with state law and with the federal First Amendment.) I discuss this in more detail in my Anti-Libel Injunctions article.

The Eleventh Circuit appellate court has not passed judgment on this, and Tasha K has said she would appeal. It's possible that the court will go along the view, accepted by a minority of state and federal courts, that such injunctions indeed violate the First Amendment. But the recent trend has been in favor of upholding the injunctions, again if they follow a judgment on the merits that the speech is libelous, and if they are limited to speech that had been found to be libelous.

Of course, the court might conclude that an injunction would be constitutionally permissible, but wouldn't make sense on the facts of the case. But my sense is that courts are generally open to such injunctions when the injunctions are constitutionally permitted, and when there seems to be a real likelihood that the defendant won't remove the libelous speech (or will repeat it) in the absence of the injunction.