The settlement obtained in Bohanan v. Robinson, 1:20-cv-02641-JPB (N.D. Ga.) provides that, consistent with current First Amendment case law, Commissioner Robinson must maintain a clear separation between his private Facebook page which he uses to communicate with his friends and family and any Facebook page that he uses to communicate with the public in furtherance of his official role. The settlement further provides that the Commissioner will not block users based on their protected speech — or delete their comments, or otherwise limit their ability to use the interactive features — on any Facebook page the Commissioner uses to communicate with the public in his capacity as a public official.
The settlement, which includes injunctive relief for plaintiff Brenda Bohanan and other Facebook users, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees, was finalized after the Clinic and co-counsel Gerry Weber filed a brief opposing the Commissioner’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint.
Further information about the history of the case is available here.
The lawsuit and settlement, reported on by the Douglas County Sentinel and Fox 5 Atlanta, put Georgia public officials on notice that when they operate interactive social media accounts in their official capacity, the First Amendment does not permit them to block or censor a user’speech based on dislike or disagreement with the viewpoints the user expresses.
Clinic students Mark Bailey (2L), Anish Patel (3L), Davis Wright (2L), and Clinic Fellow Samantha Hamilton helped litigate the case under the supervision of Clinic Director Clare R. Norins. 2020 UGA Law graduate Erin McGonigle also assisted with the initial filing of the complaint.
If you have been blocked from a government entity or public official’s social media account that is otherwise open for public view and comment, please contact the First Amendment Clinic for consultation.