Politics

Judge Asked to Toss Lawsuit Challenging Gosar’s Facebook Blocks

House general counsel argues plaintiffs have no standing to sue

Rep. Paul Gosar is fighting a lawsuit from constituents he once blocked on Facebook. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Cal file photo)

The House general counsel is asking a federal judge in Arizona to throw out a lawsuit seeking to bar Rep. Paul Gosar from blocking constituents on Facebook.

Thomas Hungar said the two plaintiffs, who sued Gosar after he blocked them on the social media platform, do not have standing to sue the representative because they are not blocked from his page anymore, according to local media reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the plaintiffs in the case and hopes that U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell will rule that lawmakers blocking constituents on social media violates their First Amendment rights.

Such a ruling could set legal precedent restricting members of Congress from policing comments on their official social media pages.

In his lastest filing, Hungar is effectively asking the judge to dodge weighty free speech issues by dismissing the case on procedural grounds.

Hungar said that the plaintiffs, Arizona residents J’aime Morgain and Paul Hamilton, are no longer blocked from Gosar’s Facebook page and therefore are not suffering any harm that would give them reason to sue.

He also noted that Gosar’s policy regarding his official social media pages has changed to be “more protective of First Amendment Rights,” and said the plaintiffs do not have an unlimited right to communicate with Gosar through social media accounts he controls.

“The First Amendment does not guarantee access to government property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government,” Hungar wrote.

Morgaine, one of the plaintiffs, is currently running for state Senate in Arizona. She told local media that she sued, she feels “there's no accountability for people that represent me."

The suit bears similarities to one filed against President Donald Trump by seven plaintiffs he had blocked on Twitter. A federal judge ruled in May that the president’s Twitter account is a public forum and Trump cannot prevent certain Americans from seeing it.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.