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Salt Lake Comic Con wants judge’s gag order lifted

SALT LAKE CITY — The organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con are asking a federal appeals court to lift a gag order blocking it from discussing a lawsuit with San Diego Comic-Con on social media.

Cosplay at an announcement for the 2017 Salt Lake Comic Con. (FOX 13 file image)

In a motion filed with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Dan Farr Productions asks the federal court to overturn a series of rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia, which ordered Salt Lake Comic Con to remove references to the lawsuit on its website and social media channels. The judge expressed concerns about tainting a potential jury pool.

The judge had also found Salt Lake Comic Con in contempt for violating his suppression orders. FOX 13 first reported on the order in September.

In the latest filing, Dan Farr Productions argues that it is prior restraint.

Cosplay at the 2017 Salt Lake Comic Con. (FOX 13 file image)

“So far as petitioners are aware, imposing a prior restraint not to protect the competing constitutional interest in a fair trial but to sanction the violation of some other court order is unprecedented. Unless this Court embraces a new ground for depriving citizens of their First Amendment rights, that alone is reason to vacate the third suppression order,” Salt Lake Comic Con attorney L. Rex Sears wrote.

San Diego Comic-Con sued Salt Lake Comic Con in 2014, accusing it of violating a copyright on the words “comic con.” Salt Lake Comic Con has insisted other events use the term to describe their events. Judge Battaglia has scheduled a trial at the end of November.

In an order issued last week, the Ninth Circuit Court wrote: “This petition for a writ of mandamus raises issues that warrant an answer.” It instructed Judge Battaglia and San Diego Comic-Con to file responses.

San Diego Comic-Con attorney Kevin Fong accused Salt Lake Comic Con of trying the case in the media instead of court.

“Since the inception of this dispute, Defendants engaged in a willful, open, and consistent strategy to win this case ‘in the court of public opinion.’ Through numerous press releases, articles, interviews with various media outlets, and the pervasive use of social media, Defendants (most notably Bryan Brandenburg) posted material and made statements that are designed to tarnish the reputation of SDCC and thereby influence the public (including the jury pool) regarding who should prevail in this litigation,” he wrote.

Read Salt Lake Comic Con’s filing with the Ninth Circuit Court here: