Two weeks ago, I found myself in Wheaton, Illinois, trying to convince a DuPage County judge why he should not issue a preliminary injunction against my client. As a young professional, my client had signed a non-competition agreement with his employer – a large medical service provider. He found a better opportunity with a competitor (also my client) and made the move. Indignant, the original employer sued, asking the court to issue a “preliminary injunction” blocking my client from working with his new employer until the non-competition agreement expired.
An injunction is a court order that you must do … or not do … something. It is a product of the “equitable” power of the court, the power to do more than simply award money damages. Injunctions arise from the notion that some things simply cannot be fixed or “made right” by a damage award. A “preliminary injunction” is an especially unique creature. It is an order issued by the court during the pendency of a lawsuit. It seeks to preserve the “status quo” until the court can hold an actual trial and issue a final decision. Consequently, it invests the judge with exceptional authority to predict what the final outcome will look like and to order someone to stand down in the meantime.
My hearing did not go my way, and my client has been “enjoined” from working for his new employer within a certain geographic footprint of his former employer … at least until we can have a formal trial and decide the disputed issues. I’m not happy about it, but I am reminded of the extraordinary authority and responsibility invested in our elected and appointed judges. Injunctions are powerful tools and a reminder of the powerful role judges play in our legal system.