CAVEAT: Wes Fager is not an attorney. Please read this notice.
This article is about Judge Logan's controversial gag of Ray Bradbury; not about Judge Logan's controversial gag of Manny Gonzalez in the Kane Furniture matter. However both gags were requests for injunctions without notice. Both were authored by attorney Leonard Englander and are within nine months of each other. Both clients are extremely wealthy--and both controversial. And critics are saying in both cases that the gags were issued to silence an opponent of the plaintiff. It is necessary therefore to bring in Judge Logan's gag of Manny Gonzalez as it goes to show a possible pattern of Judge Logan to issue gag orders without notice to protect the reputations of Leonard Englander's high profile clients. For a background of Logan's Gonzalez's gag see Lenny Englander, Kane's Furniture and Judge "gag order" Logan.
With 15 stores around the state and annual sales of $90 million Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park, Fl. is one of the largest furniture store chains in Florida. But Kane's has been the subject of an investigation by the Florida State Attorney General's Office for the last few years which led in November 2002 to a rare civil suit brought by the Attorney General's Office against Kane alleging, "Unfair and deceptive trade practices: scheme to defraud, civil theft, common law cheating, selling used goods as new, advertising misrepresentations and finance and warranty violations". In 1995 the State Attorney General's Office had investigated furniture companies throughout the state and had at that time fined Kane $80,000 for its business practices. Kane paid that fine but by 2002 it found itself being investigated again when the Attorney General's Office which offered to settle with Kane if it would pay a $400,000 fine and agree to correct its business practices. Kane refused and sued the Attorney General's Office in Sixth District Court in Pinellas County, but a judge threw the case out. (The case is under appeal.)
Reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's work regarding Straight, a man named Manny Gonzalez, at great risk to himself and as a public service, opened a web site called www.kanes-furniture.com on which he posted several hundred letters of complaint he had received about Kane Furniture--Kane's own web site is www.kanesfurniture.com. The Attorney General's Office used Gonzalez's site regularly to get leads on complaints; the Better Business Bureau did too. Kane hired Leonard Englander to handle the matter for it and so on or about December 19, 2002 Englander met with Judge Walt Logan with a request for a temporary injunction without notice to silence Gonzalez's web page. Englander did not request an injunction against Gonzalez's web site because Gonzalez was exposing alleged problems with Kane's merchandise and with Kane's business practices. He requested an injunction because of a trademark violation. Kane Furniture owns the right to the mark Kane's. The Kane story has been in the news and so as a private citizen Judge Logan probably knew of the controversy surrounding Kane. As a professional he may have known from courthouse scuttlebutt that Kane was trying to sue the Attorney General's Office in his own circuit court. Judge Logan issued the order on December 19 declaring the site's domain name couldn't use the word "Kane's" because it would confuse people looking for the company Kane Furniture.
In 1979 Kane Furniture set out to get a mark on some name. The name "Kane" was already trademarked from a 1976 mark owned by Kane Manufacturing Corp. of Kane, Pa. What Kane Furniture wound up doing was getting a mark on the name Kane's. Thus the company advertises itself as Kane's Furniture even though the legal company name is Kane Furniture. The company web page is not www.kanefurniture.com, rather it is www.kanesfurniture.com. Actually www.kanefurniture.com is a web site that offers potpourri links to any number of subject areas like health, finance and gambling. Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park was founded in 1948. Another store, Kane's Furniture of Sarasota, Florida, was founded in 1949. The two are separate companies. When Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park expanded into Sarasota, it used the name Sovan Furniture, presumably because there was already a Kane's Furniture in Sarasota.
USA Today saw through what Judge Logan had done in Florida and on January 7, 2003 published a report with this headline: "Furniture store sues over Web site posting customer complaints." Angie Sheridan, an assistant attorney general in the economic crimes unit in Orlando, had this to say publicly about Logan's decision, "We think it's the most outrageous thing." She publicly declared that the state would file a "friend of the court" brief on Gonzalez's behalf. She described the injunction as both anti-consumer and a violation of free speech. She said the attempt to shut down the web site was "retaliation against a consumer for warning other consumers and assisting in a government investigation." While it is true that Florida judges are given the authority to issue temporary injunctions without notice there must be extraordinary circumstances under which a judge is willing to deny a man his day in court. That is not to say that Judge Logan was wrong in issuing an injunction; but the fallout including public statements made by representatives from the state Attorney General's Office should be an indicator that there was perhaps legal grounds on which Mr. Gonzalez should have been afforded the opportunity to defend himself.
Had Mr. Gonzalez been able to defend himself surely he would have pointed out the obvious, that in his opinion Englander's motion for a temporary injunction without notice is not about trademark infringement; it is about free speech. But beyond that had Mr. Gonzalez been able to defend himself could he not have said, Judge my web page, www.kanes-furniture.com, is on the World Wide Web and is bigger than Pinellas Park. There is a www.kanefurniture.com not related to Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park but Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park does not seek to enjoin that site because it does not talk about alleged problems at Kane of Pinellas Park. How about a person looking for Kane's Furniture Sarasota on the Internet, might not Gonzalez have asked? That person might find one of the many sites besides Gonzalez's own site which address alleged problems at Kane Furniture of Pinellas Park. That person might assume, incorrectly, that the bad publicity he had found pertained to Kane's Furniture of Sarasota. Perhaps Gonzalez's page would have set that person straight. Had Mr. Gonzalez been able to defend himself could he not have pointed out that there is a Kane Furniture of Ormond Beach, Florida. Should not people looking for that company be advised that that is not the company under investigation. Same goes for people looking up Kane Furniture in Charlottesville, Virginia. In fact according to the Florida Department of State there are a myriad of companies like Kane's Ace Hardware Inc. in Homosassa, FL , Kane's Appliance Service in Vero Beach and a Kanes Crown and Bridge Laboratory in Miami. How about them?