The Supreme Court on Monday wiped away a lower court opinion holding that then-President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked followers from his Twitter account.
The high court dismissed the case because Trump is not in office so there is no longer a live case or controversy.
Trump established his Twitter account in 2009, and in May and June of 2017, while serving as President, he blocked seven individuals who had expressed displeasure with him.
Lawyers from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued on behalf of the individuals, arguing Trump’s action violated their First Amendment rights.
In court papers, they said the President’s account, @realDonaldTrump, “functions as an official source of news and information about the government, and as a forum for speech by, to, and about the President.”
A district court said the then-President’s action of blocking followers violated the individuals’ First Amendment rights because it excluded them from a public forum based on their viewpoints – a decision an appeals court later affirmed.
Then-Solicitor General Jeff Wall asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, arguing that Trump’s account is personal, even if it is sometimes run by his assistant Dan Scavino.
“By ignoring the critical distinction between the President’s (sometimes) official statements on Twitter and his always personal decision to block respondents from his own account,” Wall argued, the lower court opinion “blurs the line between state action and private conduct – notwithstanding this Court’s repeated and recent exhortations to heed that line carefully in applying the First Amendment.”
But after the election and after Twitter banned Trump from the platform for violating its policies related to the US Capitol insurrection, Wall asked the Court to dismiss the case and wipe away the lower court opinion.
This story has been updated with additional information.