Court rejects free speech lawsuit - Albuquerque Journal

Court rejects free speech lawsuit

SANTA FE – A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit that accused county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump co-founder Couy Griffin of free speech violations for blocking a local resident from discussions on the commissioner’s personal Facebook page, in a judgement published Friday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver sided with Griffin in the dispute over his social media account and whether it functioned as a public forum concerning county affairs, with implied guarantees to public access and free speech.

Griffin, an elected commissioner in southern New Mexico’s Otero County, was suspended indefinitely from Facebook in the aftermath of his arrest in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, where he appeared on an outdoor terrace and tried to lead the crowd in prayer. But the legal dispute over his social media account has persisted.

Three judges from the appeals court ruled unanimously that plaintiff Jeff Swanson, chairman of the Otero County Democratic Party, failed to show that the law has determined when a personal social media profile becomes a public forum, with 1st Amendment protections.

Couy Griffin

Griffin on Friday applauded the appeals court order and highlighted that he used his Facebook page to express personal opinions as just one member of a three-member county commission.

“We have the right now to ‘block’ people on our own private platforms,” Griffin said Friday of the appeals court order. “It’s a great verdict and will be excellent case law towards the mark of freedom of speech and expression.”

A. Blair Dunn, an attorney for Swanson, said he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Swanson, a Marine veteran and church chaplain, said Friday that elected leaders should not be able to shut out the electorate from political conversations on social media. Swanson said he was cut off from Griffin’s Facebook profile after criticizing the commissioner for neglecting county obligations such as upkeep of a courthouse and urging Griffin to not mix politics and religion.

“When the leaders or the representatives block other people from dialogue on common social media, that shuts off the political input of the citizens,” Swanson said. “I’m very direct, but I didn’t swear at him” on social media.

The case follows in the footsteps of litigation that challenged former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block critics from his personal Twitter account – in a case that was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court after Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter and ended his presidential term in January 2021.

Griffin is facing misdemeanor criminal charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection..

Griffin denies allegations that he knowingly entered barricaded areas of the Capitol grounds with the intent of disrupting government as Congress considered the 2020 Electoral College results, though he has openly ascribed to unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Court rejects free speech lawsuit


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
WIPP begins filling new disposal area
ABQnews Seeker
New area consists of seven separate ... New area consists of seven separate rooms for placing special boxes and barrels
2
ABQ native son, Navy vice admiral was at Pentagon ...
ABQnews Seeker
John Mateczun maintained strong ties to ... John Mateczun maintained strong ties to New Mexico
3
New venture plans to launch technological revolution in ...
ABQnews Seeker
AFF, America's Frontier Fund, aims to ... AFF, America's Frontier Fund, aims to rebuild US technological lead
4
Judge, pets killed by husband in murder-suicide
ABQnews Seeker
Diane Albert, resident of Los Ranchos, ... Diane Albert, resident of Los Ranchos, mourned by officials and friends
5
Buffalo 'walk in two worlds' – the ...
ABQnews Seeker
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – ... BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – Perched atop a fence at Badlands National Park, Troy Heinert ...
6
A tiny NM-TX border town is raking in recreational ...
ABQnews Seeker
Customers begin lining up on a ... Customers begin lining up on a hot Friday afternoon in mid-October at Ultra Health in Sunland Park. Just a three-minute drive away, others are ...
7
How does someone abandon an investment?
ABQnews Seeker
Q: I acquired a 10% interest ... Q: I acquired a 10% interest in a real estate partnership in 2018. The partnership is a Delaware entity and the property is in ...
8
Vegan food truck Lucky Goose opens brick-and-mortar location
ABQnews Seeker
Food truck Lucky Goose, which has ... Food truck Lucky Goose, which has catered to meat-free diners with vegan milkshakes and plant-based burgers, had its grand opening for its Nob Hill ...
9
Mama’s Minerals comes to Indian Pueblo Cultural Center's Avanyu ...
ABQnews Seeker
The retailer is New Mexico's largest ... The retailer is New Mexico's largest rock and bead store.