A Missouri state lawmaker violated a constituent’s First Amendment rights by blocking him on Twitter, a federal court ruled.
On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri sided with Mike Campbell in his legal battle against Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch.
“[Campbell]’s continued exclusion from the interactive space of [Toalson Reisch]’s tweets based on viewpoint is inconsistent with the First Amendment. The Court thus concludes [Toalson Reisch] has established the deprivation of a constitutional right for purposes of his § 1983 claim,” the 16-page ruling states.
Campbell sued his Republican state representative in June 2018 after she blocked him on Twitter. He argued he was blocked after retweeting another state lawmaker who was critical of her.
The lawsuit alleged that since Twitter is a public forum, blocking constituents because of his or her political views is a violation of the constituent’s First Amendment rights. Toalson-Reisch has blocked at least 123 other users on the social media platform, according to the court ruling.
Toalson Reisch argued her Twitter account was personal, not political, thus she claimed her actions were not “under color of state law.”
However, the federal court determined the “interactive space” of Toalson Reisch’s Twitter account is controlled by her in her “capacity as a state legislator, such that the interactive space is government-controlled and subject to forum analysis.”
Judge Brian Wimes listed in his ruling a bevy of instances when the sophomore lawmaker used Twitter to share photos of her and other elected officials, her work as a lawmaker, indicate her positions on political issues, and promote her campaign and legislative agenda.
“In the absence of evidence suggesting Defendant blocked Plaintiff for any reason other than to exclude comments critical of Defendant’s role as a public official, the Court finds Defendant’s actions were under color of state law,” the ruling states.
Toalson Reisch was ordered to stop blocking people based on point of view or content.
The Missouri case mirrors ongoing legal battles on a nation level.
In June 2019, an appeals court determined President Donald Trump cannot block critics from his Twitter account, calling it “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.