The school board spat raises a recurring question: Can government officials block you on social media?


Petitions of the week

The Petitions of the week section highlights a selection of certificate petitions recently filed in the Supreme Court. A list of all the petitions we monitor is available here.

Last year, the Supreme Court dismissed a case against former President Donald Trump that asked whether Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked people from his personal Twitter account while in office. This week, we highlight cert petitions that ask the court to consider, among other things, whether school board officials who block particularly vocal parents from their personal accounts violate the First Amendment.

Christopher and Kimberly Garnier are parents from the town of Poway, Calif. — located a few miles north of San Diego — who have a history of tense disputes with the local school board. Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and TJ Zane are members of the Poway School Board. For their school board campaigns, O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane created personal Facebook and Twitter pages, which they updated with their official titles once elected and began using them to post business information. and school district news.

Christopher, who is black, and Kimberly felt their concerns about race relations in the school district were not being heard despite their regular attendance at school board meetings. As for social media, the Garniers posted hundreds of repetitive comments on O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane’s Facebook and Twitter pages expressing their concerns. O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane eventually blocked the Garniers for spamming their accounts. The Garniers responded by suing O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane for restricting their First Amendment rights.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with the Garniers. Because O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane had updated their personal social media pages with their school board titles and used them regularly to post information about the school district, the 9th Circuit felt that blocking the Garniers from the pages amounted to state action. The court held that the Pages are a public forum in which the Garniers are entitled to participate in the First Amendment.

In O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier, school board officials are asking judges to decide whether they were acting in their official capacity when they blocked the Garniers on their personal Facebook and Twitter pages. The school district did not create, fund or direct any content on its pages, O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane point out. Posting announcements about the district and listing their official titles, they claim, does not turn personal social media pages into official pages.

A list of featured petitions from this week is below:

O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier
22-324
Publish: If a public official engages in First Amendment state action by blocking someone from their personal social media account, when the official uses the account to present their work and communicate to the public on issues related to his work, but not to do so under any governmental authority or obligation.

Pulsifer v. United States
22-340
Publish: If a defendant meets the criteria of 18 USC § 3553(f)(1) as amended by the First Step Act of 2018 to qualify for the federal drug conviction “safety valve” provision so long as he does not have (a) more than four points of criminal history, (b) a three-point offense, and (c) a two-point offense, or if the defendant meets the criteria until he has not (a), (b), or (c).

Anderson vs. Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
22-346
Publish: If a trustee in bankruptcy seeking to collect on behalf of creditors under 11 USC § 544(a) is subject to notice of the debtor.

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