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Case Name Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump PR-NY-0004
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-05205-NRB ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Take Care
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On July 11, 2017, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as various political writers and professors, filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs sued President Donald J. Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean M ... read more >
On July 11, 2017, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as various political writers and professors, filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs sued President Donald J. Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean M. Spicer, and other agents of the executive branch through a Bivens claim alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiffs argued that President Trump’s Twitter account was a public forum and alleged that by blocking Twitter users who had criticized President Trump or his policies, the defendants had unconstitutionally limited those users’ right to free speech. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the ACLU, sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

On October 13, 2017, the defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims, that the plaintiffs could not establish a state action, and that blocking the individual plaintiffs did violate the public forum doctrine.

On November 3, 2017, the plaintiffs responded with a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that the @realDonaldTrump account is a designated public forum and that blocking the individual plaintiffs was unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

On May 23, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part both motions for summary judgment. Judge Buchwald concluded that the court did have jurisdiction over this matter but found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Hope Hicks. Thus, the two were dismissed as defendants. Next, the Court found that the type of speech the plaintiffs sought to engage in was protected by the First Amendment and that the @realDonaldTrump account was susceptible to analysis under the public forum doctrine. Lastly, Judge Buchwald concluded that the viewpoint-based exclusion, or blocking, of a Twitter user from the account was proscribed by the First Amendment and could not be justified by the President’s personal interests. 302 F. Supp. 3d 541.

On June 4, 2018, the defendants appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A panel of Circuit Judges Barrington D. Parker, Peter W. Hall, and Christoper F. Droney upheld the district court's ruling in a July 9, 2019 opinion. They found that the President's Twitter account was not a private platform and produced government speech as part of a public forum. Under this classification, discrimination based on viewpoint was not permissible, and blocking the Twitter users amounted to viewpoint discrimination. The panel added that "workarounds" such as logging out of Twitter to see the President's tweets without the ability to comment placed an unfair burden on expression, too. As such, the President was no longer allowed to block Twitter users from the @RealDonaldTrump account. 928 F.3d 226.

The defendants applied for a rehearing en banc after this opinion was filed, but Judge Parker denied their motion on March 23, 2020, reiterating the positions held in the previous opinion. Circuit Judges Michael Park and Richard Sullivan dissented in order denying the motion, questioning the broadening of the scope of public forum doctrine to include twitter accounts. They also contested the decision that a government official using Twitter amounted to government speech. 953 F.3d 216.

The plaintiffs filed a motion on April 9, 2020 asking Judge Buchwald to set a deadline for a motion to collect attorney fees for 30 days after appeals expire. Judge Buchwald granted the motion the following day. No motion has been filed as of June 23, 2020.

Jake Parker - 07/20/2018
Sichun Liu - 03/04/2019
Ellen Aldin - 06/23/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) United States
Plaintiff Description The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and various political writers and professors.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 07/11/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Knight Institute v. Trump
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
Date: May 29, 2020
By: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:17-cv-5205 (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-NY-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Re: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, et al. v. Trump, et al., No. 17-cv-5205 (NRB) [ECF# 21]
PR-NY-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 72] (302 F.Supp.3d 541) (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 103] (953 F.3d 216)
PR-NY-0004-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/23/2020
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 104] (928 F.3d 226)
PR-NY-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Affirmed Motion for Attorney Fees [ECF# 79] (S.D.N.Y.)
PR-NY-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Bianco, Joseph Frank (E.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0004-0006
Buchwald, Naomi Reice (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
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Cabranes, José Alberto (FISCR, D. Conn., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Chin, Denny (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Droney, Christopher Fitzgerald (Second Circuit, D. Conn.) show/hide docs
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Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Katzmann, Robert A. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Lohier, Raymond Joseph Jr. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Park, Michael Hun (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Parker, Barrington Daniels Sr. (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
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Pooler, Rosemary S. (N.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Sullivan, Richard Joseph (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Abdo, Alex (New York) show/hide docs
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Amunson, Jessica Ring (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Bhagwat, Ashutosh (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Chemerinsky, Erwin (California) show/hide docs
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DeCell, Caroline M. (New York) show/hide docs
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Fallow, Katherine A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Greene, David Allen (California) show/hide docs
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Jaffer, Jameel (New York) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Tassity S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Krishnan, Meenakshi (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lakier, Genevieve (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Leinwand, Tali Ravit (New York) show/hide docs
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Lidsky, Lyrissa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Norton, Helen L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Shanor, Amanda (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Stone, Geoffrey R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Tribe, Laurence (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Tushnet, Rebecca (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Baer, Michael Hendry (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Halainen, Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hunt, Joseph H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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McIntosh, Scott R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Mooppan, Hashim M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Readler, Chad Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Utrecht, Jennifer (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Womack, Eric R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Backer, Dan (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Burgess, Brian (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Geltzer, Joshua A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Golder, Chad (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Kim, Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Marshak, Amy (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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McCord, Mary B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Miller−Ziegler, Rachel G (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Stoltz, Mitchell L. (California) show/hide docs
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Verrilli, Donald B. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0004-0004

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