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On Monday, Jason Patric prevailed in what is likely a first-of-its-kind legal dispute. The actor’s ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber demanded a restraining order that would have prevented Patric from using their son’s name for “Stand Up for Gus,” an advocacy outfit that raises awareness of parental alienation. But a Los Angeles judge decided that to stop Patric from doing things like tweeting Gus’ name would be a prior restraint under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
How the issue got to such a ruling is a twofold story.
First, Patric and Schreiber have been fighting over custody of their four-year-old son, who was born through artificial insemination. Thanks to California law, which grants the mother full custody unless there is a written agreement establishing parental rights before conception, a judge has denied The Lost Boys star access to his son. So as the custody battle heads to an appeals court next month, Gus can be considered in some respects a legal stranger to his father.
Second, in response to the situation, Patric started “Stand Up for Gus” and has been promoting it through media interviews, at fundraising events, on Twitter and on Facebook. Schreiber sought a restraining order preventing Patrric from using the child’s name and likeness for alleged commercial purposes without her permission. Usually, celebrities lean upon laws protecting one’s likeness to prevent others from exploiting their fame, but in this instance — and this is why this sort of situation hasn’t popped up before — Patric was using his fame and the name of his in vitro son to promote his cause.
Schreiber’s attorney, Patty Glaser, insisted the child’s “exploitation” was at stake, while Patric’s attorney, Lawrence Iser, focused the judge’s attention on the First Amendment. “Our country is founded upon the fundamental rights to speak freely and petition for causes, and the censorship sought by Ms. Schreiber is contrary to those fundamental values,” said Iser.
At a hearing on Monday, Judge Stephen Moloney agreed that to grant a restraining order would mean a prior restraint. This doesn’t necessarily foreclose Schreiber’s legal recourse for any improper statements by Patric after they are made, but the judge doesn’t see the need to create something that would be tantamount to a gag.
Patric tells The Hollywood Reporter, “After numerous attempts to stop me from speaking about my child, and to use the legal process to deprive me of my constitutional right of free speech, my victory today is not only for me and my son Gus, but for all other parents who will have the right to speak of and about their children in any form of media that they wish.”
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