Bernard v. Gulf Oil Co – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

Bernard v. Gulf Oil Co - Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Bernard v. Gulf Oil Co., 619 F.2d 459 (5th Cir. 1980). , the Fifth Circuit held that a broad order in a class action discrimination suit that prohibited plaintiffs’ counsel or any plaintiff from having any communication with potential class members or class representatives without first obtaining leave of the court was an impermissible restraint on the attorney’s and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Bernard, 619 F.2d at 464 n.4, 478.

Bernard is distinguishable from the instant case in many respects. Most important, the restraint on free speech at issue in Bernard was much more intrusive than the protective order and subsequent sanction in this case. In Bernard, the court was concerned with an order that it described as “broad in scope and plenary in nature” and which forbade “a wide range of communications.” Id. at 464.

That order stated “any further communication, either direct or indirect, oral or in writing . . . from the named parties, their representatives or counsel to the potential or actual class members not formal parties to this action is forbidden.” Id. at 464 n.4.