The judge appeared to agree with attorneys representing Project Veritas that barring publication of information would be a violation of the First Amendment. In her decision, Parker quoted from a Supreme Court case that said:
“Although the prohibition against prior restraints is by no means absolute, the gagging of publication has been considered acceptable only in ‘exceptional cases.’ Even where questions of allegedly urgent national security, or competing constitutional interests, are concerned, we have imposed this ‘most extraordinary remedy’ only where the evil that would result from the reportage is both great and certain and cannot be militated by less intrusive measures.”
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and AFT Michigan president David Hecker said in a statement:
“Today, a judge made clear to Project Veritas that its unlawful tactics have a price. We understand that Judge Parker chose to show deference to free speech in lifting the injunction that has been in place for three months, but she made crystal clear that the AFT’s claim about Project Veritas violating Michigan law when it infiltrated our confidential operations is likely to succeed.” [See the rest of the statement below.]
Project Veritas spokesman Stephen Gordon issued a statement that said in full:
“While we don’t comment about ongoing investigations — real or imagined — we are particularly happy that the court has removed this restraint to our First Amendment rights. The president of the national American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, has become involved in a state issue and AFT Michigan has undergone extreme legal lengths to keep some deep dark secret from receiving public scrutiny. They obviously have something they don’t wish the for the citizens of Michigan or even the entire country to find out about.”
The restraining order was placed on Project Veritas, famous for its “sting” operations aimed primarily at mainstream news organizations and liberal groups, in early October. A civil complaint filed by the American Federation of Teachers Michigan alleged that Veritas had planted an operative who used an alias to get a job at the union and spy on its operations.
At the time, Project Veritas, which says its mission is to stop corruption, did not confirm or deny that it had done so. The restraining order, signed by Circuit Court Judge Brian R. Sullivan, barred Project Veritas from publishing, releasing to the public or in any way disclosing information its agents or employees may have gathered on the union.
While Parker lifted the restraining order, she said in the decision that the union has “a likelihood” of succeeding in court if it chooses to sue Project Veritas on a claim of “breach of duty of loyalty.” She said that based on the evidence presented in her court, the union was not likely to succeed on other claims against Project Veritas, including an allegation that it had violated a state eavesdropping law.
The AFT Michigan lawsuit alleged that a woman named Marissa Jorge got an internship at the union in May 2017, using the pseudonym “Marissa Perez.” The woman said she was a University of Michigan student who wanted to be a teacher and that she “showed an interest in charter schools and in instances of educators who had supposedly engaged in ‘sexting’ with students; there were no such instances.”
The suit also said Marissa Perez sought information that was beyond her assignment, sought and was granted permission to see confidential databases, sent confidential information from those databases to herself or copied them, accessed the computers of several staff members, and secretly recorded conversations.
Project Veritas attempted to infiltrate The Washington Post in recent months, trying unsuccessfully to plant a false story about former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in the paper. It was part of a campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York, according to this Washington Post story.
This is the full joint statement from Weingarten and Hecker:
“Today, a judge made clear to Project Veritas that its unlawful tactics have a price. We understand that Judge Parker chose to show deference to free speech in lifting the injunction that has been in place for three months, but she made crystal clear that the AFT’s claim about Project Veritas violating Michigan law when it infiltrated our confidential operations is likely to succeed.“We believe strongly in the First Amendment, and while our swift action in seeking judicial relief was a heavy lift from a legal perspective, it established a strong foundation for our longer-term goal of protecting students, teachers and families in Michigan from the abusive actions of Project Veritas.“The judge’s decision supports our position that we have a right of action the moment Project Veritas publishes anything illegally obtained by its operative Marisa Jorge. Today’s decision gives clear warning that Project Veritas and the people working on its behalf, in this case a former Liberty University student, will be held liable for their actions. For too long, James O’Keefe and his associates have advanced a political agenda from secret donors using infiltration and lies, heavily edited videos and spurious claims. O’Keefe has repeatedly declared his war on teachers, students and families organizing in the interest of high-quality public education, and routinely advances false narratives based on heavily manipulated video. We will be zealous in seeking full relief and damages the moment O’Keefe goes public with any of the material stolen or illegally obtained by Project Veritas associates, and in challenging media narratives that promote false propaganda in the interest of secret political agendas.”