Legal journalist Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza sued President Donald Trump and won—she visited Duke's campus Wednesday to tell the tale in an event at the Duke Law School.
Following a comment on one of Trump's tweets in which she alluded to the Russian collusion investigation, Buckwalter-Poza soon noticed that she was blocked by Trump. Then she and six other plaintiffs decided to sue. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled against Trump in May, but he has since appealed the ruling.
“The courts remain the last line of defense…[so] this process should not be about partisanship but integrity,” Buckwalter-Poza said.
Although Trump has appealed the decision, Buckwalter-Poza regained her access and has resumed her commentary on the president’s feed. She said that she did not expect an abnormal response to her commentary.
“To be fair, you didn’t win the White House; Russia won it for you,” she tweeted in response to President Trump’s claim that he won the 2016 election in spite of unfair media coverage.
Buckwalter-Poza is active on Twitter and regularly discloses her many disagreements with the current administration, so she said she anticipates trolls with every message. However, when three days passed without a notification of new Twitter statements from the account @realDonaldTrump, she realized what had occurred—the president of the United States had blocked her.
As a graduate of Yale Law School and former clerk for federal judges, Buckwalter-Poza said she thoroughly understood the protections provided via the First Amendment, and she believed that Trump had violated the Constitution. She joined six other individuals—also barred from reading the president’s tweets—at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
The plaintiffs sued the administration in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, heard in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York.
Buckwalter-Poza mentioned the relevance of the Supreme Court case Packingham v. North Carolina, a unanimous decision also regarding social media. Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to the platform as the “modern public square” in his majority opinion for the court.
She said she was surprised that Trump’s team admitted that, though the block stemmed from legitimate political dissent, the president possesses immunity from First Amendment statutes. To the defendants’ dismay, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald found that stance to breach precedent set in Packingham.
“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States," Buchwald wrote in her opinion. "The answer to both questions is no.”
Buckwalter-Poza examined her case as direct evidence to why the courts must remain an institution unscathed by the effects of partisanship. From her perspective, both of Trump's nominees—Justice Neil Gorsuch and Judge Brett Kavanaugh—typify this transition.
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Ultimately, Buckwalter-Poza said she plans to strive against any unlawful action conducted by Trump, and she added that she will not hesitate to engage him again.
“I hope that you too take the initiative of suing the president,” she said.