Intel Coporation v. Hamidi

Aug 07, 2002

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

When Ken Hamidi sent his emails to his former coworkers (Intel employees), they reached their intended recipients via the same Intel email system through which all outsiders communicate electronically with Intel employees and through which, on a reasonable basis, Intel employees send and receive other personal communications.

Intel objected to the content of Mr. Hamidi's emails, which were highly critical of Intel’s employment policies and of Intel’s positions on issues such as the need for more workers from abroad. In its brief in the court of appeal, Intel characterized the messages as “highly inflammatory and calculated to upset Intel’s employees.”

Intel filed suit eventually blocking Mr. Hamidi from communicating with Intel employees using their work email addresses.

If state law permits an injunction under these circumstances, this becomes a case of constitutional magnitude. Because it is the state, acting through a court-imposed injunction, that now prevents Mr. Hamidi from communicating with Intel employees by email, the case raises substantial First Amendment questions.

Like most businesses, and certainly like all “high tech” businesses, just as it has a telephone system, Intel Corporation has an email system through which outsiders can contact its employees. Like the telephone, email is also available to employees for their own reasonable personal use. 

The California Supreme Court should determine the extent to which the Constitution limits the state's power to construe the tort of trespass to chattel as authorizing a content-based injunction restraining a private individual's criticism of his previous employer.

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