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Missouri lawmaker can block critics on Twitter, federal court says

Missouri lawmaker can block critics on Twitter, federal court says

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ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court on Wednesday said a lawmaker from Boone County can block her critics on Twitter, reversing a lower court ruling in the case.

Missouri lawyer Mike Campbell sued in U.S. District Court in 2018 after he was blocked by state Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville. Campbell claimed Reisch blocked him after he retweeted another state representative who defended Reisch’s election opponent against criticism from Reisch. Campbell is also one of Reisch’s constituents, the appeals court opinion says, and among at least 124 people that she has blocked.

U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes ruled in 2019 that Reisch blocked Campbell under “color of law” and in her capacity as a state legislator. But a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed in a 2-1 opinion Wednesday. Judges Steven M. Colloton and Morris S. Arnold wrote that Reisch was using the Twitter account “in a private capacity, namely, as a campaigner for political office,” and likened it to “a campaign newsletter.” They said “it’s Reisch’s prerogative to select her audience and present her page as she sees fit.”

Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that Reisch’s account mainly tweeted information about new laws, the work of the Legislature and her official activities. Kelly wrote that blocking Campbell represented “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” and said Reisch could no more block critics on Twitter than bar them from participating in a town hall meeting based on their opinions.

Campbell’s lawyer, Andy Hirth, said in an email that he will seek a rehearing in front of the full 8th Circuit.

Reisch has since deleted her Twitter account, @CheriMO44.

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