The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that a civil litigant’s First Amendment rights were violated when a U.S. district court judge ordered him to stop writing letters to shareholders of a bank that had sued him.

A litigant’s speech may not be curbed without a finding restrictions are necessary to protect the fairness or integrity of the proceeding, that the speech risks harming the litigation, that the restriction will alleviate the particular harm, and that less-restrictive measures will not suffice, the appeals court said in a precedential ruling Tuesday. The magistrate judge and district judge in the case at hand made no such findings and considered no such alternatives, the appeals court said.

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