Revenge Porn Threat Justified Injunction

Clark and McLane engaged in a several month-long relationship, which ended when Clark notified McLane’s wife of the affair.

McLane threatened Clark:

He informed her that he had created a website in her name on which he planned to post nude photographs of her, and that he was also setting up accounts with three major search engines so that any search of her name would first yield a result for the website he had created. In addition, he told her that he was creating an account on a video-sharing website in her name, that he would be sharing the websites with her friends, that he had already gathered eighteen or more email addresses from her work colleagues to share the websites with them, and that potential employers would see the websites as well.

He added:

[g]uys will have your cell phone number, as well as your work number to get a hold of you [sic] and ask you out.

A link to the website stated that pics of Clark “will be coming soon”.

The trial court held a hearing and Clark testified. (Unclear if McLane was present.) It issued an injunction prohibiting McLane from contact with Clark and ordering him to disable and cease his efforts “designed to disseminate information about plaintiff to others.”

On appeal, the big question is whether McLane’s conduct satisfied one of the statutory bases of “abuse” under the statute. The statute defined “abuse” in several conventional ways, but interestingly did not have an emotional distress prong. (See 19-A M.R.S. 4002(1).) The various prongs were geared towards fear of bodily injury, confinement, etc. The one prong that looks like it plausibly applies got at a perpetrator’s efforts to cause the victim to cease doing something he or she had the right to do. The court says that prong applied here–Clark had the right to be employed and pursue her work, and McLane’s conduct was designed to and actually inhibited these efforts. The posting of pics would have a deleterious effect on Clark’s employment prospects, and the court says this is a sufficient statutory basis for the injunction.

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We’ve seen another instance of a threat to expose pictures of someone but in that case the court declined to grant the injunction. (“Court Denies Restraining Order Against Ex-Boyfriend Who Threatened to Post Revenge Porn“.) Here, the court broadly construes the statutes and says the injunction was properly granted. I’m guessing it’s not often that perpetrators threaten the would-be victim before actually posting pictures; assuming such pre-publication threats are relatively rare, this ruling doesn’t add a ton to the ongoing revenge porn debate. Still, it’s interesting to see that the injunction was obtained and that McLane even fought the issue. (Not sure what he was thinking here, but then again, he doesn’t sound like the most cool-headed of people.)

One wonders about First Amendment-procedural issues that may be lurking at the fringe—e.g., whether the hearing was ex parte and whether the scope of the injunction should have been narrower.

Finally, on a loosely related note, Karl Kronenburger emails news of the $250,000 verdict obtained in a civil case: “Firm Obtains Landmark $250,000 Civil Verdict in Revenge Porn Case.”

Case citation: Clark v. McLane, 2014 ME 18 (Feb. 11, 2014) [pdf]

Related post:

Court Denies Restraining Order Against Ex-Boyfriend Who Threatened to Post Revenge Porn

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