Arizona voter sues congressman after he blocks her on Facebook

J'aime Morgaine is suing congressman Paul Gosar for blocking her on Facebook for violating free speech rights.

J'aime Morgaine's congressman won't listen to her on Facebook.

So she drove from Kingman to Phoenix Friday to deliver a message to Republican Paul Gosar -- in a federal lawsuit.

"He's censoring, blocking us on a constituent page," Morgaine, an Army veteran, said in an interview outside the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse.

"To me, it's a fundamental violation of his oath of office."

Morgaine's an activist with the Indivisible group in Kingman, and a frequent critic of Gosar's.

Her lawsuit contends that Gosar's Facebook page is no different under House of Representatives' rules from his House member's page.

As an elected official she says, all his communication should be accessible to the public and voters have a free-speech right to comment.

"It should bother everybody, whether you like or agree with whatever posted," she said of Gosar's blocking her.

"By his own account he has blocked hundreds."

The Gosar social-media lawsuit is believed to be the first in Arizona against an elected official.

President Donald Trump is already the target of what could be a landmark case defining whether elected officials can block constituents on social media.

Morgaine filed the lawsuit without an attorney. She said she was coached in part by another citizen, who sued a Virginia elected official for blocking him and won.

"In looking at the facts surrounding her case, I actually feel she has a much stronger case than I had," said Brian Davison, whose federal court victory against an elected official in Loudon County, Virginia, is being appealed.

In an email to 12 News, Gosar's general counsel said Morgaine violated standards on the congressman's Facebook page:

"The plaintiff previously admitted to violating the congressman's policy against profanity... The congressman welcomes all views and a healthy but civil dialogue.  Because the Facebook comments are public, and everyone including minors, can read them, the Congressman has rules against profanity, hate speech (and)  intolerance."

Legal analyst and attorney James Goodnow said the courts are catching up to the emerging clash between citizens' claim to free-speech rights on politicians' social media accounts versus politicians' claims of a right to control that speech.

"What the courts are saying is, 'Yeah, it's online, but functionally this is protected speech that's essential to our constitutional democracy,'" Goodnow said.

Gosar's Facebook policy on profanity likely runs afoul of free-speech rights, Goodnow said.

"No one likes trolls online," Goodnow said. "But the truth is, the Constitution protects trolls."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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