Tory v. Cochran

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Tory v. Cochran
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 21, 2005
Decided May 31, 2005
Full case name Ulysses Tory, et al., Petitioners v. Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.
Citations 544 U.S. 734 (more)
125 S. Ct. 2108; 161 L. Ed. 2d 1042; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 4347; 73 U.S.L.W. 4404; 33 Media L. Rep. 1737; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 322
Prior history On writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Breyer, joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg
Dissent Thomas, joined by Scalia

Tory v. Cochran, 544 U.S. 734 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court case involving libel. The case began in California with Johnnie Cochran, the famed attorney who represented O. J. Simpson, suing his former client Ulysses Tory for libel and invasion of privacy.

Cochran had withdrawn as Tory’s lawyer in a civil rights suit nearly twenty years earlier, and in the late 1990s Tory began picketing Cochran’s office, carrying signs that accused him of being a thief and of accepting bribes. A trial judge ruled that Tory had made false and defamatory statements about Cochran, and instead of awarding him damages, issued an injunction ordering Tory to never again display a sign or speak about Cochran.

Tory appealed, arguing that the order was a prior restraint that violated his First Amendment right to free speech. In an unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the order was constitutional. The California Supreme Court declined to review the case, and on April 24, 2004, Tory filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition was granted, briefing followed and the oral argument took place on March 22, 2005. Cochran died seven days later and the court asked for further briefing.

On May 31, 2005, the court ruled 7–2 that in light of Cochran's death, the injunction limiting the demonstrations of Ulysses Tory "amounts to an overly broad prior restraint upon speech". Two justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said that Cochran's death made it unnecessary for the court to rule.

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