U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Governor Can't Block Users From Official Facebook Page

Maine Gov. Paul LePage took a page from President Trump, and that was the problem.

The president blocked people from his Twitter account, and a judge said that violated the First Amendment. LePage blocked people from his Facebook page, and another judge said he violated the First Amendment.

It's hard to believe some high officials know so little about the First Amendment. In Leuthy v. LePage, it didn't seem to surprise the court.

Free Speech

For Maine residents, it's no surprise that LePage has made some ill-advised statements. For example, he told a high school group he wanted to shoot a political cartoonist.

The cartoonist was the father of a student in the crowd, and LePage knew it. The governor was joking, but he just didn't get it.

The episode has little to do with the Facebook case, but it has everything to do the governor's sense about free speech. He blocked and deleted critical comments on his Facebook page.

When two Maine residents sued the governor for blocking them, LePage moved to dismiss the case. He said it was not his "official" page.

Official Page

 Judge John A. Woodcock, Jr. denied the motion, in part because the page had the word "official" all over it. Then there was this:

"The Governor does not dispute the Plaintiffs' claims that his deletion of their posts and banning of them from his page constituted viewpoint discrimination," the judge said.

It must have seemed like a big concession, which could end only one way.

"Given this and the Court's conclusion that forum analysis does apply, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs plausibly stated a claim for violation of their free speech rights under the First Amendment," Woodcock ruled.

Related Resources: