On April 5, 2021
It is 3:14 pm
Slightly less than three months after former President Donald Trump Permanently banned from Twitter, Supreme court Put an end To a legal battle over Trump’s personal Twitter account, overturning a lower court ruling against the former president and ordering that court to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is in question – that is, it is no longer a live dispute.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2017 by Knight First Amendment and seven individuals who were banned by Trump on Twitter after they criticized the president or his policies. The plaintiffs claimed that their Twitter ban violated the First Amendment, and the district court agreed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld this ruling.
Trump, who is represented by acting former U.S. Attorney General Geoffrey Wall, the chief federal government attorney on the Supreme Court during the end of the Trump administration, asked judges to consider last summer. Wall claimed that the Second Circuit’s decision ignored “the crucial distinction between the president’s (sometimes) official statements on Twitter and his always personal decision to prevent” the plaintiffs from seeing and responding to his tweets. He wrote that a lower court ruling would limit government officials’ ability to “isolate their social media accounts from harassment, trolling, or hate speech without unfair judicial oversight.” Especially when it comes to the president, Wall concluded, the Supreme Court should have the last word on “where to draw the line between the president’s personal decisions and official behavior.”
Prosecutors urged the judges to walk away from the dispute, telling them that the lower court “correctly applied a well-settled precedent” in concluding that Trump’s actions in preventing them from accessing his Twitter account violated the First Amendment. Evidence in the case, they write, shows that the president’s personal Twitter account “serves as an official source of news and information about the government, and as a forum for, to, and on the president’s speech.” Furthermore, they added that the Second Circuit’s decision does not contradict the decision of any other court of appeal – an important factor for judges in deciding whether or not to take the case.
In a memo filed in January, the Trump administration told judges that although the Second Circuit decision was worth their review, the issue would become moot once Joe Biden succeeds Trump as president on January 20. Not in his personal capacity, the administration has made clear, but Biden will have no control over Trump’s Twitter account. (The administration suggested that Twitter’s January 8 comment on Trump’s Twitter account did not make the issue moot because Twitter could always reverse that decision.) Therefore, the Trump administration has argued, the court should annul the Second Circuit’s decision in favor of competitors. Submit the case again with instructions to dismiss it – a procedure known as Munsingwear vacancy. The administration has argued that the decision should not be allowed to stand, and serve as a precedent for future disputes when it “had not escaped the review of this court but for the sake of” controversy by chance “.
After hearing the case in 11 consecutive conferences, the court finally followed the Trump administration’s suggestion and sent the case back to the second circuit with instructions to dismiss it as moot. Judge Clarence Thomas wrote a lengthy opinion (perhaps explaining at least in part the delay in adjudicating the case) in which he agreed to the court’s decision to overturn the second circuit ruling against Trump, but stressed that the case “highlights the major legal difficulty surrounding” the digital platforms – that is, Applying old principles to new digital platforms is seldom simple. Thomas suggested that judges “will soon have no choice but to address how our legal principles apply to highly focused, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms,” but agreed that the Trump case was not the appropriate case to do so.
This post was Originally published in Howe on the Court.