Preliminary Injunction Denied in First Amendment Lawsuit Against Senator Warren
Earlier this week, federal judge Barbara Rothstein denied a preliminary injunction against Senator Elizabeth Warren. At issue was a letter that Warren penned to Amazon voicing her concern about Chelsea Green's book The Truth About Covid-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal. Warren wrote that the book perpetuated conspiracies about Covid-19 and spread false and misleading information. Warren asked Amazon to look into how Amazon's algorithm allowed the book to be a preferred search result and that Amazon's conduct was unethical and potentially unlawful.
A lawsuit was initially brought against Warren by publisher Chelsea Green, as well as authors Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Joseph Mercola, and Ronnie Cummins. The lawsuit claimed their first amendment rights were violated. In their complaint, they argued that Warren's letter ran afoul of the 1963 US Supreme Court case Bantam Books v. Sullivan. In Bantam, a group of book publishers sued a state commission that was created to stop juvenile delinquency. The commission threatened book publishers with prosecution and warning letters for distributing what they deemed to be "objectionable" materials. The court agreed and said the commission's actions, which were backed by potentially criminalizing obscenity, were a form of informal censorship. Chelsea Green and the authors asked for an injunction declaring Warren's conduct as unlawful, a retraction from Warren, and damages.
However, Judge Rothstein's rulling amounted to "are you kidding me?!" Warren's conduct wasn't even close to what happened in Bantam. In contrast, Senator Warren doesn't have any investigative authority, and there's no statutory basis for her statement that Amazon's practices were "potentially unlawful." Warren couldn't follow through with any legal sanctions because they couldn't be carried out, unlike in Bantam where the state commission could carry out its threat. The injunction was denied.