A federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump has thrown out a lawsuit accusing conservative lawmaker Rep. Lauren Boebert of violating the First Amendment by blocking a constituent on Twitter.
In a recent 25-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico in Colorado essentially ruled that Boebert, a far-right Republican from the state, was free to block people at will from her @laurenboebert account, because it is “held out and operated as a personal and campaign account.”
“Whether it is wise for members of the United States Congress to block critical constituents from their social-media accounts is not for a court to say,” Domenico wrote in a ruling in Boebert's favor.
“The only question here is whether federal courts are authorized to legally forbid one from doing so in these circumstances ... I conclude they are not,” he added.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought last year by Brianna Buentello, a former state lawmaker, who was blocked by Boebert after advocating for her recall, and describing her actions on January 6, 2021 as “seditious.”
Buentello argued that the Boebert violated the First Amendment by engaging in viewpoint discrimination.
The judge said in his ruling that the block wasn't done by the government, because the Twitter account wasn't an official government account. The First Amendment generally prohibits only the government from discriminating based on viewpoint.
Domenico previously refused to order Boebert to unblock Buentello, but the judge didn't throw out the lawsuit altogether until late last week. Absent an appeal, Domenico's latest ruling ends the federal litigation. But the decision also leaves the door open for Buentello to claim in state court that Boebert is violating the Colorado constitution.
The judge may have accepted that the @laurenboebert account, which has 1.6 million followers, was personal and the @RepBoebert account, with roughly one-third as many followers, was other official, but both seem to express the same highly partisan sentiments.
An October 28 tweet from @laurenboebert reads, “Due to a shortage of competency in the White House, we’re now experiencing a shortage of diesel in Colorado and throughout the U.S. Stocks of diesel are the lowest for this time of year on record and the Feds only have 25 days of diesel reserve. This is a recipe for disaster.”
Several days earlier, the official account also addressed fuel issues, tweeting: “Biden has waged war on American energy. Gas is $4 a gallon again, & this administration still doesn’t have a plan. ...It’s time to reduce inflation, lower gas prices, stop raiding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, & drill, baby, drill.”
Also, the pro-gun lawmaker has used both accounts to tout weapon ownership.
Last December, Boebert famously tweeted a photo of her children posing with rifles from the personal account.
Several days ago, the official account tweeted: “2022 is on pace to see the third-largest number of firearms sold since that number was tracked. Let freedom ring!”
Judges in other parts of the country have grappled with questions surrounding politicians' decisions to block constituents on social media, but there doesn't appear to be much consensus.
Most famously, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a trial judge's decision that former president Donald Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking critics on Twitter.
But another federal apellate court, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that state Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch didn't violate the First Amendment by blocking Missouri resident Mike Campbell on Twitter. Reisch did so after Campbell retweeted criticism of her.
The appellate judges said in that case that Reisch's Twitter account was “unofficial,” because she used it “overwhelmingly for campaign purposes.”
Campbell unsuccessfully pressed the court to reconsider, arguing that the decision gave elected officials a blueprint for circumventing the First Amendment. Campbell specifically argued that “savvy public officials” could exclude critics on social media “simply by claiming to be engaged in 'campaign speech.'”