April 26, 2021

Public official sued for allegedly unlawfully blocking an individual from accessing the Official's public Facebook page

A public official [Official] used his Facebook's "Public Page" in his official capacity to communicate information to, and receive comments from, the public on various issues of local and state politics and policy.

Official, however, blocked an individual's [Plaintiff] access to his Public Page after Plaintiff posted accusations it condoned allegedly “flagrant racism” and “ugly comments” posted by other Facebook users on Official's Public Page. Plaintiff then initiated an action in federal district court against Official seeking "declaratory and injunctive reliefand for monetary damages."  

The United States Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's action as moot as Official had expressly represented in two sworn declarations before the district court that “he does not intend to ban or block [Plaintiff's] access" to his Public Page again at any time in the future and had, in fact, "unblocked [Plaintiff] ... 'long before' [Official] moved to dismiss [Plaintiff's] claims."

Citing Lamar Advert. of Penn, LLC v. Town of Orchard Park, 356 F.3d 365, the Circuit Court explained "[w]hen a defendant voluntarily ceases conduct that a plaintiff alleges to be unlawful, the plaintiff’s case usually becomes moot if  'the defendant can demonstrate that (1) there is no reasonable expectation that the alleged violation will recur and (2) interim relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation.'"  

Agreeing with the district court that on this record "it cannot reasonably be expected that [Official] will attempt to block [Plaintiff] from [his] Public Page in the future" as Official had filed two sworn declarations before the district court that “he does not intend to ban or block [Plaintiff's] access to the [Official's] Facebook page again at any time in the future,” the Circuit Court affirmed the district court's judgment.  

Click HERE to access the text of the Circuit Court's decision.


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