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Ohio Supreme Court takes on ruling in Cincinnati police officer lawsuit

Ohio Supreme Court hears appeal involving Cincinnati officer's social media lawsuit
Posted at 5:28 PM, Nov 10, 2021

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court heard appeals on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 from two of the four defendants who were sued by a Cincinnati police officer over social media posts. The appeals were over a temporary restraining order that kept them from identifying the police officer on social media.

The officer, who has been identified by courts under the pseudonym M.R., was providing security during a public forum by the Cincinnati Budget and Finance Committee. He had given the "okay" hand signal that's been identified as a white supremacist hand signal. According to the initial complaint, "defendants made various posts on social-media platforms falsely portraying M.R. as a white supremacist, referring to him derogatorily and threatening to publicize his personal identifying information." M.R. also sued over alleged false complaints filed against him with Cincinnati's Citizen's Complaint Authority. He filed suit against Julie Niesen, Terhas White, James Noe and Alissa Gilley.

WCPO: Cincinnati police officer sues over being 'portrayed as a white supremacist'

M.R. stated in an affidavit that he was only signaling to someone that an officer who had left the scene was fine.

Lawyers for Niesen, White and several media and free speech organizations argued that a temporary restraining order placed against their clients during a pre-trial hearing was a First Amendment violation.

At issue is a temporary restraining order which kept the defendants from identifying the police officer on social media. Attorneys for the defendants asked for a continuance in trial court, and argued Hamilton County Common Please Court Judge Megan Shanahan extended the temporary restraining order she put on the case during a pre-trial hearing to cover the entirety of the case. No decision in the lawsuit has been made while appeals over the restraining order have worked through the courts.

The appeal was first heard by the First District Appellate Court in Hamilton in September 2020 and was dismissed. The First District court found the temporary restraining order was not a "final and appealable order subject to review" and dismissed it. Niesen and White then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard arguments from attorneys this week.

Attorney Jennifer Kinsley argued the restraining order brought by Judge Shanahan was put in place for the entirety of the case, which is beyond the scope of such an order and is appealable based on the First Amendment. Zachary Gottesman, who is representing the Cincinnati police officer who is identified by in court documents as M.R., argued the temporary restraining order had already expired and was put in place to keep his client from being harmed or having his and his families personal information put online.