A Houston federal judge is mulling over whether he will issue a temporary injunction that would order Houston plaintiff’s firm Feldman & Feldman to take down statements from its website that its courtroom opponent, residential sales leaseback firm EasyKnock, alleges are false and defamatory.
During a Zoom hearing early Thursday evening, U.S. District Judge George Hanks of the Southern District of Texas considered arguments from both sides and promised the lawyers he would rule as quickly as possible.
The hearing follows a lawsuit EasyKnock filed last week alleging that Feldman & Feldman and its name partners, Cris Feldman and his father, David Feldman, “engaged in a campaign of barratry” to lure EasyKnock customers into suing the New York-based company and its affiliate, EK Real Estate Services of NY, through a post on the firm website and through “uninvited solicitation letters” mailed to customers. Because of the law firm’s defamatory statements, EasyKnock alleges, Feldman & Feldman has been able to attract enough business to file nine federal lawsuits across Texas against EasyKnock.
Whether Judge Hanks will grant EasyKnock’s TRO request seems to rest on the answers to two key questions. The first, which the judge raised himself, is how substantial is EasyKnock’s threat of irreparable injury — a legal standard for harm to a party in which no monetary compensation could cure.
“There are nine lawsuits with ongoing statements attacking EasyKnock’s reputation and goodwill,” EasyKnock lead lawyer Chris Trowbridge said at the hearing. “Under Southern District of Texas [caselaw], that type of damage is irreparable.”
The second question is over whether EasyKnock’s request amounts to a prior restraint on expression, a censorship measure of First Amendment law that Feldman & Feldman’s lawyer argued should not be considered lightly, despite EasyKnock’s insistence that it is not requesting such a restraint.
What’s at stake in the temporary injunction, Feldman & Feldman lead lawyer Chip Babcock said, is “200 years of [First Amendment] caselaw defining the principles of our democracy,” which is that “people get to speak without restraint from the court.”
The Texas Lawbook’s previous report on the case, which provides more details, can be found here.