views updated May 29 2018


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.

further readings

Suro, Robert and Jo Becker. 2000. "Florida Legislature Ready to Intervene; Special Session on Electors to Convene on Friday" Washington Post (December 7).




views updated May 18 2018


In use long before the Constitution, the injunction in the twentieth century came to play one of its most important roles as the enforcer of constitutional and civil rights. Precisely because it is effective, flexible, and open-ended, the injunction has drawn opposition, and constitutional cases have often included fierce battles over whether the injunction ought to be used as a remedy. These battles have resulted in some complex judicially imposed limitations on the use of injunctions in public law cases.

The injunction rests on a simple idea: that a court may order someone to perform or to cease some action. However simple the idea, it was not a usual feature of the earliest English common law. Although it is inaccurate to say that early common law never commanded the performance of an action, by the sixteenth century its typical judgment simply decreed that A, having won the suit, was entitled to "take" some sum of money from B. If B did not cooperate, A could often gain the assistance of the sheriff, but B was subject to no direct order to do anything.

By contrast to the common law courts, the Court of Chancery administered a system of remedies that came to be called equity, vindicated by an order directing someone to do or cease doing something. At an early stage only the imagination of the Chancellor, who presided over the court, limited the precise nature of such orders. Equity has never lost this tradition of flexibility and discretion, but as Chancery developed a sense of precedent, the occasions for such orders began to seem standardized. For example, a court might require a defendant to perform a trust, to convey land, to carry out a contract, or to pay money owed to a business partner. Some orders, typically those forbidding an action (for example, requiring a party to halt a lawsuit or to cease polluting a stream), came to be called injunctions, though the term "injunctive relief" is often used broadly to refer to direct judicial orders of many sorts. Such equitable remedies always remained relatively discretionary: Chancery would not, for example, enter an injunction in all cases; the litigant seeking such an order first had to convince that court that his remedy at law (i.e., from the common law courts) would be "inadequate," a deceptively simple term that over five centuries has taken on some surprising baggage. Because of this requirement a litigant can have a valid legal right for which, however, he cannot obtain injunctive relief.

In America before the civil rights era the injunction saw its most controversial use in labor disputes in which courts, acting on the view that union organizing and strikes were either common law torts or violations of antitrust statutes, frequently enjoined strikes or picketing by workers. Such actions engendered great bitterness and led to Congress's withdrawing from federal courts jurisdiction to enter an injunction in any labor dispute. (See norris-laguardia act.) That withdrawal in turn has bolstered arguments in favor of occasional proposals to withdraw injunctive jurisdiction in other areas in which courts were enforcing unpopular decisions.

In the late twentieth century the injunction has had its most prominent career not as a remedy in tort, contract, and property disputes but as a vindicator of civil rights. That new role flowed largely from ex parte young (1908), which held that although sovereign immunity might bar a damage action against a state, it did not bar injunctive relief against a state official acting unconstitutionally. This development meant that even if there was no remedy for past unlawful action, an injunction could halt continuation of that activity. Until the birth of the modern civil rights damage action with monroe v. pape (1961) and the civil rights acts of the 1960s, the injunction served as a primary tool for the enforcement of civil and constitutional rights.

Because the injunction is open-ended, it has the potential for use in a wide variety of contexts. Not only can simple acts be required or forbidden but, more important, elaborate public institutions can be restructured. Probably the most noteworthy and certainly the most controversial use of injunctive relief came in the years following brown v. board of education (1954) as the courts ordered school systems to end racial segregation. Drawing on their experience in complex antitrust and bankruptcy cases, the courts employed the injunction as a tool for the reorganization of the schools. In the case of recalcitrant systems, such desegregation decrees sometimes called forth elaborate and detailed orders concerning the assignment of students and teachers, the curriculum, and other details of the schools' operation. Such orders often engendered resistance and involved the courts in the conduct of the schools over a number of years in particularly intractable cases. Courts have also ordered injunctive relief in institutional litigation involving prisoners ' rights and the rights of mental patients.

Part of what makes the injunction such a powerful and controversial tool is the enforcement power that stands behind it. One disobeying an injunction is subject to contempt penalties—with the threat of indefinite imprisonment and mounting fines until one obeys the order. Perhaps because the injunction carries with it such a formidable arsenal for enforcement, the Supreme Court has enunciated a series of restrictions on the use of injunctive relief in favor of litigants wishing to challenge official action. Thus a federal court may abstain from deciding the constitutionality of a state practice until the state courts have had an opportunity to clarify the law or practice in question, as in Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co. (1941). Moreover, even if the law or practice is clear, a federal court should refrain from adjudicating the constitutionality of a state statute if the challenger of the statute will have an adequate opportunity to present that challenge in pending litigation to which the state is a party (younger v. harris, 1971). Both the so-called Pullman and Youngerabstention doctrines have complexities not hinted at in these summaries; they testify to the power of the injunction and its centrality in much modern constitutional litigation.

Stephen C. Yeazell


Fiss, Owen 1978 The Civil Rights Injunction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Frankfurter, Felix and Greene, Nathan 1930 The Labor Injunction. New York: Macmillan.


views updated Jun 08 2018

in·junc·tion / inˈjəng(k)shən/ • n. an authoritative warning or order. ∎  Law a judicial order that restrains a person from beginning or continuing an action threatening or invading the legal right of another, or that compels a person to carry out a certain act, e.g., to make restitution to an injured party.DERIVATIVES: in·junc·tive / -ˈjəng(k)tiv/ adj.


views updated May 29 2018

injunction XVI. — late L. injunctiō, -ōn-, f. injunct-, pp. stem of injungere ENJOIN; see -TION.
So injunctive XVII.


views updated May 29 2018

injunction A court order enjoining a specified party to refrain from a specified action.