Blogger's incarceration raises First Amendment questions

One afternoon as the Shulers drove to the local library, where Mr. Shuler had been writing his blog since they could no longer pay for their Internet connection, a member of the Sheriff’s Department pulled them over, saying they had run a stop sign. The officer then served them the papers, which the Shulers refused to accept, contending that service under such a pretext was improper.

“We were both throwing the papers out of the windows as we were driving off,” Ms. Shuler said in an interview.

The Shulers missed a hearing the next day, and the restraining order was superseded by a similarly worded preliminary injunction, which some free-speech advocates saw as a clear violation of Mr. Shuler’s First Amendment rights.

“It seems to me that the judge’s order was really way out of bounds,” said David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, who was further troubled by the judge’s initial decision to keep the case under seal.