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An injunction is an equitable remedy in the form of a court order that prohibits ("enjoins" or "restrains") a party from continuing to do an illegal activity. At the very core of injunctive relief is a recognition that money damages can't solve every problem. An injunction may be permanent or it may be temporary. Usually if it is issue early in litigation it is in the form of a temporary restraining order (TRO). It is often necessary to prove the high likelihood of success upon the merits of one's case before it will be granted on a temporary case (i.e. long before trial). In some cases a TRO may be granted, ex parte, i.e. without informing the party to whom the TRO is directed. Usually such ex parte orders are of a short term and are to prevent one's adversary from having notice of one's intentions. Such notice may allow the eventual object of the application for an injunction from doing something that would make the court's granting of an injunction fruitless, such as wasting or hiding assets as often occurs in dissolution of marriage or in the disclosing of a trade secret that had been the subject of a non-disclosure agreement.

This injunctive power to restore the status quo ante; that is, to make whole again someone whose rights have been violated, is essential to the concept of fairness (equity). For example, money damages would be of scant benefit to a land owner who wished simply to prevent someone from repeatedly trespassing on his land. The ability of the landowner to use the courts to sue the trespasser for injunctive relief is often the only practical way to end the trespass (the government may or may not bring criminal trespass charges at the landowner's urging; the civil power is in the landowner's own hands).

Once the order is secured, the trespasser violates it at his own peril, risking fines and imprisonment for contempt of court.

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