The case was initially filed in July 2017 by the Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven individuals
Twitter/Getty Images


By David Cohen

1 hour ago

The end of the Donald Trump presidency and the end of the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account roughly two weeks earlier prompted the Department of Justice to withdraw its request that the Supreme Court hear a case regarding Trump’s blocking of critics on the social network.

The case was initially filed in July 2017 by the Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven individuals who were blocked by the then-president after criticizing him in replies to tweets.

However, despite the fact that the case no longer involves a sitting president or an active Twitter account, the Knight Institute urged the Supreme Court to uphold the appeals court ruling that the DOJ was trying to convince it to vacate.

Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before the Second Circuit, said in a statement Thursday, “The Justice Department is right that the case is moot, but wrong about why. The case is moot because President Trump’s repeated violation of Twitter’s terms of service led that company to shut down his account and to ban him permanently from its platform. Because it was President Trump’s own voluntary actions that made the case moot, the Supreme Court should leave the appeals court’s ruling in place.”

Senior staff attorney Katie Fallow, who argued the case before the district court, added, “The Supreme Court should reject the Trump administration’s last-ditch effort to have the Second Circuit’s decision vacated. But the truth is that the decision will continue to shape the way that public officials use social media even if it’s vacated. Many other courts have now adopted the Second Circuit’s analytical framework. And there is now widespread recognition that the principles we established in this case are important to protecting the vitality of public forums that are increasingly important to our democracy.”

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in May 2018 that Trump’s Twitter account constituted a public form under the First Amendment, and that his blocking of users based on their viewpoints was unconstitutional.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit affirmed that ruling in July 2019, and that same court rejected a request by the Trump administration for a full-court review in March 2020.

The administration then petitioned the Supreme Court in August 2020, but the DOJ filed its brief conceding that the case had become moot Jan. 19.