Test of Trump’s Twitter Shield Goes Before NY Court

MANHATTAN (CN) – Attorneys for President Donald Trump will face off before a federal judge Thursday in defense of his ban against certain critics from following him on Twitter.

The hearing in Manhattan this morning stems from a complaint filed by seven men and women banned by President Donald Trump’s personal feed @realDonaldTrump.

Hailing from across the country and all walks of life, Trump’s court opponents represent members of the arts, medicine, academia, politics, sports and law enforcement. They are political consultant Rebecca Buckwalter, University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen, Grammy-nominated songwriter Holly Figueroa, Vanderbilt University Medical Center surgeon Eugene Gu, former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Brandon Neely, retired professional cyclist Joseph Papp and comic Nicholas Pappas.

Counsel for the plaintiffs have argued in court briefs that Twitter access is subject to the same constitutional restraints as any other forum.

“Defendants’ ongoing exclusion of plaintiffs from @realDonaldTrump imposes a continuing burden on plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the Columbia University-affiliated Knight First Amendment Institute, told the court this past August.

“The burden is especially significant because it affects plaintiffs’ ability to access, reply to, and discuss the statements of the nation’s highest official,” the 3-page letter continues. “At the same time, the government plainly has no legitimate interest in protecting the president from criticism.”

Justice Department attorney Michael Baer meanwhile has cast the relief sought the plaintiffs as “extraordinary,” saying the Constitution cannot be fashioned into “a tool for supervising the president’s personal Twitter account – an account he created eight years before assuming office.”

“To make that result more palatable, plaintiffs paint in broad strokes: they label every decision the President makes about his account state action and recast every interaction (or potential interaction) a public official has with a constituent as a ‘forum,’ subjecting basic decisions about whether to begin or end a conversation – on social media or otherwise – to judicial scrutiny,” Baer wrote in November (parentheses in original).

U.S. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald is presiding.

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