A federal judge in Detroit on Wednesday lifted the temporary restraining order a major teachers union won against the conservative group Project Veritas and denied a request for a preliminary injunction.
A Wayne County circuit judge in September blocked Project Veritas, a group run by provocateur James O’Keefe, from disclosing videos of other information it obtained in an undercover operation carried out against the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Detroit.
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AFT Michigan alleged that Project Veritas operative Marisa Jorge used the name Marissa Perez and posed as a University of Michigan student to gain access to the chapter as an intern. The group claimed Jorge “unlawfully accessed and transmitted proprietary and confidential information and engaged in unlawful and unauthorized surveillance of” employees.
AFT Michigan had sought an injunction citing a strong likelihood of success with respect to violations of the Michigan Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the Michigan Eavesdropping Act and Jorge’s breach of fiduciary duty, all of which failed to hold up in court.
U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker ruled that the AFT failed to meet the proper criteria for issuance of a preliminary injunction.
Parker said not one of the 221 documents the chapter produced fell within the “trade secret” description as defined by MUTSA. She also said the chapter lacked evidence that Jorge did anything to violate the state’s eavesdropping act.
The court did concede that AFT Michigan had a likelihood to succeed on the merits of its breach of duty of loyalty claim, though. But it also found that a preliminary injunction would raise First Amendment concerns, cautioning that the course of action would “most certainly … infringe upon Defendants’ First Amendment right.”
The court reasoned that AFT Michigan “will not suffer irreparable harm because there is no factual support that Defendants violated either the MUTSA or the Eavesdropping Act. Moreover, there is no certainty that what could be published could harm Plaintiff.”
“As to the harm to Defendants, imposing an injunction would be a severe infringement on Defendants’ First Amendment right,” the court added. “Although the Court finds that Plaintiff will likely prevail on the merits of its breach of duty of loyalty claim, based on U.S. Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit precedent, the Court nonetheless finds that Plaintiff’s commercial interests are not greater than the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.”