Appeals Courts Consider Whether Elected Officials Can Block Critics on Social Media

Law App IconOn March 26, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral argument in Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia University v. Trump, No. 18-1691 (2d Cir.), a case which will decide whether President Donald Trump can block people from seeing what he posts on Twitter.  (See Trending Law Blog, June 14, 2018).

Although the Second Circuit has not yet issued its decision, in a similar case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on January 7, 2019 that the Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors – an elected official – violated the First Amendment when she temporarily blocked a constituent on Facebook.  See Davidson v. Randall, No. 17-2002 (4th Cir. Jan. 7, 2019).  In the unanimous decision of the Fourth Circuit, the court held that elected officials may not block critics on social media accounts used for official business.

The Second Circuit, of course, is not bound by the holding in Davison, but could adopt its rationale to affirm the lower court decision of Judge Naomi Reice of the Southern District.  On the other hand, if the Second Circuit’s decision takes a different view than the Fourth Circuit and holds that elected officials may block their critics on social media, the issue just might find its way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Should you have any questions relating to this blog post, please contact Robert B. Nussbaum, Esq. at Saiber LLC.