JT Morris Law secures Fifth Circuit appeal win in First Amendment case.

On behalf of its client Deanna Robinson, JT Morris Law secured a ruling from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that reversed a federal district court’s dismissal of Ms. Robinson’s First Amendment claims against Hunt County, Texas and vacated the denial of her request for a preliminary injunction. Ms. Robinson alleges that she was and remains banned from posting comments on the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page because of the critical viewpoints she expressed. The case will return to the federal district court for further proceedings.

In reversing the dismissal of Ms. Robinson’s claim against the county, the Fifth Circuit panel agreed with Ms. Robinson’s contention “that the defendants’ actions constitute viewpoint discrimination regardless of whether they were motivated by her criticism of the Sheriff’s Office or a determination that her comment was otherwise ‘inappropriate.’” The decision also explained that a private social media policy, like Facebook’s community guidelines, “cannot authorize a state actor to engage in conduct that violates the Constitution.”

In rendering its decision, the Fifth Circuit became the second federal court of appeals to recognize that the First Amendment applies to government social media pages.

The appeal is Robinson v. Hunt County, et al, Case No. 18-10238 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The court’s full opinion can be read here.