Federal Judge Denies Government's Motion to Stay Injunction in Landmark Free Speech Case

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

In addition to celebrating our nation’s independence, the 4th of July brought the welcome news (at least for those who value free speech) that federal judge Terry Doughty had issued a preliminary injunction in the Missouri v. Biden case. The ruling, accompanied by a 155-page Memorandum, essentially bars numerous government officials from coercing and colluding with social media companies to censor free speech.


The government, of course, has appealed the case to the Fifth Circuit and filed a motion with the trial court to stay the injunction pending that appeal.

On Monday, Judge Doughty denied the motion to stay. Additionally, the judge clarified the definition of “protected free speech,” as referenced in the Memorandum which accompanied the injunction.

Monday’s ruling was accompanied by a 13-page Memorandum, which can be viewed below.

gov.uscourts.lawd.189520.301.0_1 by Susie Moore on Scribd

In the Memorandum, Judge Doughty begins by reiterating his view that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their case. To underscore this, he includes examples of actions taken by each set of defendants that demonstrate why they are unlikely to succeed on the merits.

Judge Doughty continues by again stating his rationale for finding the plaintiffs have standing to bring the litigation. He then addresses the government’s contention that it will suffer irreparable injury without the stay, observing:


Defendants argue that the injunction may be read to prevent the Defendants from engaging in a vast range of lawful conduct—including speaking on matters of public concern and working with social-media companies on initiatives to prevent grave harm to the American people and our democratic processes. However, the Preliminary Injunction only prohibits what the Defendants have no right to do—urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech on social-media platforms. The Defendants provide no argument that they are legally allowed to take such action. The Defendants are asking the Court to grant them relief to a Preliminary Injunction that only bars illegal conduct [emphasis added]. In other words, the only effect of staying the Preliminary Injunction would be to free Defendants to urge, encourage, pressure, or induce the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech on social-media platforms.

As to the government’s contention that the injunction isn’t sufficiently specific because its definition of “protected free speech” refers to the jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeal, and the United States District Courts, Judge Doughty clarifies the definition by narrowing it to refer to the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence only, thus dispensing with the concern expressed by the government that officials might have to research the laws of every federal court to determine what speech qualifies.


Judge Doughty’s reasoning is summed up in his conclusion:

Plaintiffs are likely to prove that all of the enjoined Defendants coerced, significantly encouraged, and/or jointly participated social-media companies to suppress social-media posts by American citizens that expressed opinions that were anti-COVID-19 vaccines, anti-COVID-19 lockdowns, posts that delegitimized or questioned the results of the 2020 election, and other content not subject to any exception to the First Amendment. These items are protected free speech and were seemingly censored because of the viewpoints they expressed. Viewpoint discrimination is subject to strict scrutiny.

Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears. It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do—contacting socialmedia companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner, the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms [emphasis added]. It also contains numerous exceptions.

In all likelihood, the government will now seek a stay from the Fifth Circuit pending the appeal, so this story is far from over. RedState will continue to provide updates as they become available.


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