July 09, 2019

On July 9, 2019, the Second Circuit ruled in favor of firm pro bono clients the Knight First Amendment Institute and individual Twitter users in a closely watched case about whether a Twitter account is a “public forum” under the First Amendment.  The court held that President Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked seven individuals from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account after they criticized him in comment threads associated with the account.

In its opinion affirming all of the arguments the firm and the Knight First Amendment Institute advanced in their briefing, the court noted that the “irony in all of this is that we write at a time in the history of this nation when the conduct of our government and its officials is subject to wide‐open, robust debate. This debate encompasses an extraordinarily broad range of ideas and viewpoints and generates a level of passion and intensity the likes of which have rarely been seen. This debate, as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as it frequently may be, is nonetheless a good thing. In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”  The court also pointed to US Supreme Court precedent that urged “great caution” to prevent the government from “silenc[ing] or muffl[ing] the expression of disfavored viewpoints” under the guise of the government speech doctrine.

Partner Jessica Ring Amunson led the firm team, with Associates Tassity Johnson and Tali R. Leinwand.

Click here for the Knight Institute’s press release on the victory.