Blocking Twitter critics is unconstitutional, judge tells president
(Courthouse News) President Donald Trump’s Twitter account isn’t a Constitution-free zone, a federal judge ruled this week.
“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the president of the United States,” U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote.
“The answer to both questions is no,” the 75-page opinion continues.
Columbia University-based Knight First Amendment Institute brought the lawsuit that led to today’s watershed ruling on behalf of seven academics, entertainers and political personalities blocked by the president’s Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump.
“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” the ruling states.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will face no liability for Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers, nor will former communications director Hope Hicks, who resigned shortly after telling Congress of “white lies” she uttered for the president.
Buchwald stopped short of ordering Trump to unblock his critics at this time.
“A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official – including the president – is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared,” she wrote.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said attorneys are considering what to do next.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision,” Kupec said.
Should Trump flout the law as stated, Buchwald said she could issue an injunction against White House social media director Dan Scavino to avoid separation-of-power concerns.
“Accordingly, though we conclude that injunctive relief may be awarded in this case – at minimum, against Scavino – we decline to do so at this time because declaratory relief is likely to achieve the same purpose,” Buchwald wrote.
The seven men and women who brought the lawsuit exulted at the news, on Twitter.
“To everyone who said, ‘no one cares that you are #BlockedByTrump!’ I’d like to say: this federal judge disagrees,” Grammy-nominated songwriter Holly Figueroa tweeted.
Echoing the judge’s words, surgeon Eugene Gu wrote: “No government official is above the law—not even the President of the United States.”
Their attorneys at the Knight Foundation also celebrated their victory.
“The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end,” the foundation’s executive director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.