ACLU Presses Case Against Kentucky Governor Over Facebook Blocks

A federal appellate court in New York this week may have handed the ACLU new ammunition in its First Amendment battle with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that President Trump violates the constitution when he blocks people because they criticized him. The ACLU, which sued Bevin in 2017 for also blocking critics on social media, is now highlighting that ruling in new court papers.

The civil liberties group says Bevin's arguments on key issues -- including whether citizens' free speech rights were violated by the blocks -- were rejected this week by by the appellate court.

“This recent decision of the Second Circuit is yet another appellate court rejecting the same arguments made by Governor Bevin,” the ACLU argues in papers filed Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove in Frankfort.

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The lawsuit in Kentucky dates to 2017, when the ACLU sued on behalf of Kentucky residents Drew Morgan and Mary Hargis, who were blocked by Bevin on Facebook after making critical comments. Moran said his comments related to Bevin's overdue property taxes, while Hargis criticized Bevin's labor policies.

Last year, Van Tatenhove rejected the ACLU's request for a preliminary injunction, ruling that Bevin's use of Facebook was “personal,” and he has no obligation to allow members of the public to comment via the platform.

The ACLU in May filed new court papers again urging Tatenhove to prohibit Bevin from blocking residents on social media due to their point of view. At the time, the civil rights organization said the legal landscape had changed since Tatenhove's initial ruling.

The organization now says its case is even stronger, given this week's appellate ruling involving Trump. In that matter, lawyers for the Department of Justice argued Trump acted in a “personal” capacity when he blocked people on Twitter. The appellate judges rejected that contention, noting the record contained uncontested evidence of “substantial and pervasive government involvement with, and control over, the account.”

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