Well, this could set an interesting first amendment precedent in South Dakota. Because Senator Stace Nelson is being sued for violating the rights of a voter because Stace would not let him challenge the Senator’s “misinformed and inaccurate statements” on Facebook:
NATURE OF THE ACTION
1. This is a civil rights action seeking to vindicate important First Amendment values, to protect the free exchange of ideas about matters of public concern, and to prevent a public official from engaging in slander and unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
2. Defendant, Senator Stace Nelson (“Senator Nelson”), a publicly elected official, has wrongfully and willfully attempted to silence Plaintiff, Jeffrey Church (“Church”) after Church was critical of Nelson’s misinformed and inaccurate statements on matters of public concern that were made on a public forum.
3. Senator Nelson has also wrongfully and willfully slandered Church and made harmful statements that were knowingly false or made in reckless disregard of the truth.
41. Church replied to Nelson by asking “Is there a reason I can no longer comment on most of this page? You call me out by name on here, like you did at your Lincoln Day dinner speech, arid then I can’t respond.” To which, Senator Nelson stated, “Jeff Church and yet, here you are … in all your Socialist supporting glory, responding away.”
42. In an additional comment, Senator Nelson wrote: “Jeff Church slanderous comments and lies will be deleted. Either mind your manners or go someplace else to post your propaganda. This is my personal FB page maintained on my personal time. You are not entitled to post your lies and propaganda here. You support Socialists. There’s nothing constitutional or conservative about you.”
51. Senator Nelson’s blocking of Church and deletion of comments written by Church from Senator Nelson’s Facebook page violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments because Senator Nelson’s actions impose content and viewpoint-based restriction on Church’s ability to petition the government for redress of grievances.
60. Senator Nelson, acting under the color of state law, has wrongfully deprived Church that right to petition by excluding Church from Senator Nelson’s Facebook page, a public forum and designated public forum.
61. Senator Nelson knew or should have known that denying Church access to a public forum and a designated public forum on matters of public concern violated clearly established law.
From Church v. Nelson
This is interesting, coming on the heels of his resignation announcement. It goes along the lines of the lawsuit successfully pursued against President Trump which prevented him from blocking people on his Twitter account.
Let’s just say Stace has a …certain history… of interacting with people negatively on Facebook. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it as this lawsuit moves to trial.
And it’s a big wakeup call to other elected officials that hadn’t taken notice of the ruling yet. Because they’re now hearing of it as it’s pursued in our own little State, and it may affect how each and every one of them handle their social media.