POWAY, Calif. — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a First Amendment case stemming from a suit brought against members of Poway Unified School District.
At issue is whether or not a public figure can block an individual from their social media accounts when conducting official business and if doing so violates free speech protections.
The lawsuit was brought by parents in Poway Unified School District, Christopher and Kim Garnier, who filed against former diistrict Trustee T.J. Zane and current member Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff. The parents often posted on their Facebook and Twitter accounts and were eventually blocked.
They sued in federal court in San Diego, arguing blocking violated their First Amendment rights to free speech. The federal judge agreed as did the 9th Circuit of Appeals, but in another case out of Michigan, a judge came to the opposite conclusion.
Robert Schapiro, dean of University of San Diego’s School of Law, says there isn’t a lot of precedent case law; however, there are prior relevant cases.
“The case really is about the Supreme Court grappling with how old-fashioned constitutional doctrine intersects with emerging technology in the case of social media,” said Schapiro.
“Most notably there was a case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit saying that President Donald Trump couldn’t ban people from his Twitter account,” he added.
Well-known San Diego attorney Cory Briggs is representing the Graniers. He was not available for comment by the time of broadcast.
O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane issued a statement which reads in part: “Public officials are themselves private citizens with their own First Amendment rights, which include the right to block abusive commenters and otherwise use their own personal social-media accounts without being constrained by the rules that the First Amendment imposes on the government.”