United States federal court says 'NO' to President Donald Trump

Glen Norman
May 25, 2018

"We are extremely pleased that the judge held that the president's blocking of critics from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account violates the First Amendment", Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute who argued the case, said.

While presidents retain their own First Amendment rights even when they take public office, the judge said, Trump "cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him".

"The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and can not be justified by the President's personal First Amendment interests", the judge said.

The Justice Department defended Trump's Twitter activity, contending that muting is within the president's "associational freedoms".

Duke University constitutional law professor Stuart Benjamin said he disagreed with Buchwald's finding that parts of Trump and other officials' Twitter accounts were public forums.

The case was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven Twitter users whose accounts had been blocked.

In the past week, he has repeatedly claimed in multiple tweets that the Justice Department put a "spy" inside his presidential campaign to frame him for "crimes he didn't commit" amid mounting questions over his campaign's possible collusion with Russian Federation.

President Trump and the other defendants conceded they did so because they disliked the viewpoints the plaintiffs expressed in their tweets.

"The President, like other public officials, routinely engages in conduct that is not state action, whether that might be giving a toast at a wedding or giving a speech at a fundraiser", the Justice Department wrote in a brief, according to The Washington Post. For Manhattan magistrate account is part of public forum and as such can not escape First Amendment, adopted in 1791 to protect freedom of expression.

Media and entertainment lawyer Alan Neigher said he had "no doubt, whatsover" that the ruling would be upheld on appeal because Trump's use of Twitter to make policy announcements "made it a public forum, and those who agree with him get access".

The court, while not going so far as to enter an order against the president and social media director Dan Scavino specifically, ruled more generally that public officials violated users' rights when blocking them on the platform.

"As to the muting, I think that is an option", Fallow said at the time.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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