Obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order
Our Firm has substantial experience with litigating temporary restraining orders (“TROs”) in the non-compete context. Whether defending against or pursuing a TRO, our knowledge and experience help us provide sound legal advice and representation to our clients before and during such litigation. TROs generally involve complex and mixed questions of fact and law that are heard and argued on an expedited basis with limited evidence before a court. Thus it is critical to have experienced counsel who both knows how to handle such matters and is able and willing to move quickly to seek or oppose injunctive relief like a TRO.
What is a TRO?
TROs are short-term pre-trial temporary injunctions—that is, orders from the court telling the parties what they can or cannot do for a specified period of time while a lawsuit proceeds to preliminary or final evidentiary hearing. To obtain a TRO, a party must convince a judge that he or she will suffer immediate irreparable harm unless such an order is issued. If the judge is convinced that a temporary restraining order is necessary, he or she may issue the order immediately, without informing the other parties and without holding a hearing. These orders are intended to be temporary stop-gap measures, designed to prevent immediate harm and preserve the status quo, and only last for a limited period of time or until the court holds a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary or permanent injunction.
Requests for TROs often occur in the non-compete context because businesses claim irreparable injury or harm will result from the actions of former employees if they are not immediately stopped from doing what they have alleged to have done or be doing. Employers, therefore, will move for a TRO to restrain former employees from participating in some activity allegedly prohibited by a non-compete agreement (e.g., soliciting customers or employees). In short, it is a way for employers to stop an employee from doing what an employer believes is unlawful while a court is deciding whether such actions are actually unlawful.
Legal Standard for Granting a TRO
In determining whether to issue a TRO or preliminary injunction, in the non-compete context or otherwise, Missouri courts consider: (1) the probability of success on the merits of the underlying claim; (2) whether the movant will suffer irreparable harm absent entry of an injunctive order; (3) whether the harm to be suffered by the movant, in the absence of such relief, is greater than that which will be inflicted on other interested parties; and (4) whether the public interest will be served by the injunction. Emerson Elec. Co. v. Rogers, 418 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2006).
It is critical that the party seeking preliminary injunctive relief adequately and specifically allege in its petition and/or motion the protectable interests at stake for the former employer and the immediate, irreparable harm that will be suffered without preliminary injunctive relief in the form of a TRO.
Because TRO hearings are held on an expedited basis and provide only temporary relief, and occur often before the parties have exchanged documents and information, judges typically focus more on whether a party has sufficiently alleged and identified irreparable harm, as opposed to whether the party has a meritorious claim in the lawsuit. Nonetheless, being able to identify and argue a likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying claim will not only greatly increase a party’s chance of securing a TRO, but also will be critical at later stages of the process when seeking preliminary or permanent injunctive relief at a trial or final evidentiary hearing.
If you are looking for a better understanding of how to seek or defend against a TRO, please contact our office directly to review the situation. We may be reached at (314) 645-4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.