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U.S. appeals court sides with Missouri state representative in case over Twitter account

Cheri Toalson Reisch
KMIZ
Cheri Toalson Reisch

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a Mid-Missouri State Representative on Wednesday in a case over her Twitter account.

The ruling sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings. One judge dissented and sided with the lower court ruling.

State Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville) was sued after she blocked a constituent on Twitter. The constituent, Mike Campbell, argued the representative had violated his First Amendment rights when he was blocked.

In 2019, Missouri's Western District Court ruled that Reisch had violated Campbell's constitutional rights. District Judge Brian C. Wimes based his ruling on a similar case against Donald Trump, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Donald J. Trump.

Appeals Court Judge Morris S. Arnold said in his opinion that Reisch's Twitter account, which has since been deleted, functioned more like a campaign newsletter and that she was therefore allowed to choose who could interact with it. Arnold included in his ruling that the case was "fundamentally different" than Knight because the former president's Twitter account was used for official government activity.

Wimes said in the district court ruling that Reisch's account had "trappings" of an official account, which included the Twitter handle "@CheriMO44." The handle refers to Reisch and the district she represents. Arnold concluded that the handle could also include trappings of a personal Twitter account.

The appeals court judge added that Reisch has the right to pick and choose which users can interact with her posts.

In her dissent, Appeals Court Judge Jane Kelly said the representative's Twitter account was operated like an open forum and that Campbell's rights had been violated. Kelly also cited Knight and said Reisch "did not attempt to limit the Twitter account's interactive feature to her own speech."

Kelly concluded that Reisch had blocked Campbell because of his opinions and that he had been discriminated on his viewpoint, "thereby violating the First Amendment."

As of Wednesday, it's unclear when the District Court will take up the case again.

Court and Trials / News / Top Stories

Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.

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