Can elected officials block you from their personal social media accounts?
Had Donald Trump won the 2020 election, we might have had an answer to that question by now. An appeal on the subject involving Trump was pending while he was president, but the justices dismissed it after he lost to Joe Biden and the case was moot.
On Monday, the court decided to take on the issue with a new set of appeals involving, as NBC News’ Lawrence Hurley put it, “much-lower-profile figures — two members of the Poway Unified School District Board of Trustees in Southern California and the city manager of Port Huron, Michigan.”
The court’s eventual decision could be significant not only for such lower-profile figures but even Trump himself if he’s re-elected. At any rate, it’s an important issue to sort out that can affect politicians and people of all persuasions.
There isn’t an argument date yet for this new appeal but it will likely be heard some time during the court’s next term, which starts in October, with a decision expected by June 2024. It takes four justices to agree to hear a case but the vote tally isn’t public.
In the Trump case that the Supreme Court previously dismissed, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump’s Twitter account was a public forum and that he violated the First Amendment by blocking critics' access to it. Trump appealed, but the Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot in April 2021, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing a concurring opinion that seemed more upset that Twitter used its vast power to remove Trump's account earlier that year. Thomas didn’t mention that the suspension had followed Trump’s fomenting of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Since then, Elon Musk took over Twitter and allowed Trump to come back. What the court does in this case, and how it affects Trump or any other politician, remains to be seen.