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A court order by which an individual is required to perform, or is restrained from performing, a particular act. A writ framed according to the circumstances of the individual case.
An injunction commands an act that the court regards as essential to justice, or it prohibits an act that is deemed to be contrary to good conscience. It is an extraordinary remedy, reserved for special circumstances in which the temporary preservation of the status quo is necessary.
An injunction is ordinarily and properly elicited from other proceedings. For example, a landlord might bring an action against a tenant for waste, in which the right to protect the land-lord's interest in the ownership of the premises is at issue. The landlord might apply to the court for an injunction against the tenant's continuing harmful use of the property. The injunction is an ancillary remedy in the action against the tenant.
Injunctive relief is not a matter of right, but its denial is within the discretion of the court. Whether or not an injunction will be granted varies with the facts of each case.
The courts exercise their power to issue injunctions judiciously, and only when necessity exists. An injunction is usually issued only in cases where irreparable injury to the rights of an individual would result otherwise. It must be readily apparent to the court that some act has been performed, or is threatened, that will produce irreparable injury to the party seeking the injunction. An injury is considered irreparable when it cannot be adequately compensated by an award of damages. The pecuniary damage that would be incurred from the threatened action need not be great, however. If a loss can be calculated in terms of money, there is no irreparable injury. The consequent refusal by a court to grant an injunction is, therefore, proper. Loss of profits alone is insufficient to establish irreparable injury. The potential destruction of property is sufficient.
Injunctive relief is not a remedy that is liberally granted, and, therefore, a court will always consider any hardship that the parties will sustain by the granting or refusal of an injunction. The court that issues an injunction may, in exercise of its discretion, modify or dissolve it at a later date if the circumstances so warrant.
Types of Injunction
Preliminary A preliminary or temporary injunction is a provisional remedy that is invoked to preserve the subject matter in its existing condition. Its purpose is to prevent dis-solution of the plaintiff's rights. The main reason for use of a preliminary injunction is the need for immediate relief.
Preliminary or temporary injunctions are not conclusive as to the rights of the parties, and they do not determine the merits of a case or decide issues in controversy. They seek to prevent threatened wrong, further injury, and irreparable harm or injustice until such time as the rights of the parties can be ultimately settled. Preliminary injunctive relief ensures the ability of the court to render a meaningful decision and serves to prevent a change of circumstances that would hamper or block the granting of proper relief following a trial on the merits of the case.
A motion for a preliminary injunction is never granted automatically. The discretion of the court should be exercised in favor of a temporary injunction, which maintains the status quo until the final trial. Such discretion should be exercised against a temporary injunction when its issuance would alter the status quo. For example, during the Florida presidential-election controversy in 2000, the campaign of George W. Bush asked a federal appeals court for a preliminary injunction to halt the manual counting of ballots. It sought a preliminary injunction until the U.S. Supreme Court could decide on granting a permanent injunction. In that case, Siegel v. Lepore, 234 F.3d 1163 (11th Cir. 2000). the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit refused to grant the injunction, stating that the Bush campaign had not "shown the kind of serious and immediate injury that demands the extraordinary relief of a preliminary injunction."
Preventive Injunctions An injunction directing an individual to refrain from doing an act is preventive, prohibitive, prohibitory, or negative. This type of injunction prevents a threatened injury, preserves the status quo, or restrains the continued commission of an ongoing wrong, but it cannot be used to redress a consummated wrong or to undo that which has already been done.
The Florida vote count in the presidential election of 2000 again serves as a good example. There, the Bush campaign sought preventive injunctions to restrain various counties from performing recounts after the Florida results had been certified. The Bush campaign did not attempt to overturn results already arrived at, but rather attempted to stop new results from coming in. In turn, the Gore campaign attempted to obtain a preventive injunction to prevent Florida's secretary of state from certifying the election results.
Mandatory Injunctions Although the court is vested with wide discretion to fashion injunctive relief, it is also restricted to restraint of a contemplated or threatened action. It also might compel specific performance of an act. In such a case, it issues a mandatory injunction, commanding the performance of a positive act. Because mandatory injunctions are harsh, courts do not favor them, and they rarely grant them. Such injunctions have been issued to compel the removal of buildings or other structures wrongfully placed upon the land of another.
Permanent Injunctions A permanent or perpetual injunction is one that is granted by the judgment that ultimately disposes of the injunction suit, ordered at the time of final judgment. This type of injunction must be final relief. Permanent injunctions are perpetual, provided that the conditions that produced them remain permanent. They have been granted to prevent blasting upon neighboring premises, to enjoin the dumping of earth or other material upon land, and to prevent pollution of a water supply.
An individual who has been licensed by the state to practice a profession may properly demand that others in the same profession sub-scribe to the ethical standards and laws that govern it. An injunction is a proper remedy to prevent the illegal practice of a profession, and the relief may be sought by either licensed practitioners or a professional association. The illegal practice of law, medicine, dentistry, and architecture has been stopped by the issuance of injunctions.
Acts that are injurious to the public health or safety may be enjoined as well. For example, injunctions have been issued to enforce laws providing for the eradication of diseases in animals raised for food.
The government has the authority to protect citizens from damage by violence and from fear through threats and intimidation. In some states, an injunction is the proper remedy to bar the use of violence against those asserting their rights under the law.
Acts committed without just cause that interfere with the carrying on of a business may be enjoined if no other adequate remedy exists. A trade secret, for example, may be protected by injunction. An individual's right of personal privacy may be protected by an injunction if there is no other adequate remedy, or where a specific statutory provision for injunctive relief exists. An individual whose name or picture is used for advertising purposes without the individual's consent may enjoin its use. The theory is that injunctive relief is proper because of a celebrity's unique property interest in the commercial use of his or her name and likeness (i.e., their right of publicity).
Restraining Orders A restraining order is granted to preserve the status quo of the subject of the controversy until the hearing on an application for a temporary injunction. A temporary restraining order is an extraordinary remedy of short duration that is issued to prevent unnecessary and irreparable injury. Essentially, such an order suspends proceedings until an opportunity arises to inquire whether an injunction should be granted. Unless extended by the court, a temporary restraining order ceases to operate upon the expiration of the time set by its terms.
An individual who violates an injunction may be punished for contempt of court. A person is not guilty of contempt, however, unless he or she can be charged with knowledge of the injunction. Generally, an individual who is charged with contempt is entitled to a trial or a hearing. The penalty imposed is within the discretion of the court. Ordinarily, punishment is by fine, imprisonment, or both.
Suro, Robert and Jo Becker. 2000. "Florida Legislature Ready to Intervene; Special Session on Electors to Convene on Friday" Washington Post (December 7).