Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, sworn in just two weeks ago to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, already faces calls for her resignation or expulsion in the wake of the January 6 insurrection attempt in Washington, D.C. — and now she's looking at a First Amendment lawsuit after she blocked a critic on her Twitter account.
Attorney David Lane of Denver-based Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, whose client, Bri Buentello, is the plaintiff in the complaint, notes that the legal argument against Boebert is essentially identical to the one used against President Donald Trump in a 2017 suit filed by Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute that Trump lost; the organization sued him again last year for continuing to block accounts in violation of the court edict. Buentello's lawsuit dubs Trump Boebert's "hero," but Lane ups the ante, referring to the outgoing president as "her god."
Lane contends that Trump and his acolyte are "both authoritarians." Boebert "believes the Constitution begins and ends with the Second Amendment, although her understanding of the Second Amendment is completely flawed; she feels like she can carry a gun anywhere, anytime she wants, and even the most ardent gun-rights advocates on the Supreme Court have never taken that position," he notes. "She's all over the media, decrying censorship of every kind, and yet she's turning around and censoring any critics who disagree with her."
Boebert has indeed been out front in her condemnation of platforms such as Apple, Amazon and Google for banning Parler, an app founded by two former University of Denver students that was allegedly used by participants in the U.S. Capitol attack. On January 10, she tweeted: "Apple bans Parler for 'violent threats' on the same day that Twitter allows 'Hang Mike Pence' to trend. No social media platform is perfect at enforcing their policies as things take time [to] be removed, but this is an absurd double standard meant to silence conservatives."
(Boebert's Twitter profile previously suggested that folks follow her on Parler. That line has been removed, but it could return — just like Parler, which is back online thanks to Epik, host of such purveyors of right-wing hate and conspiracy theories as 8chan and Gab.)
Buentello, a former Colorado state rep who fell short in her 2020 re-election bid in Colorado House District 47, is certainly not a gun hater (see her Twitter profile photo above). But she's been an outspoken critic of Boebert, particularly following the D.C. riot, which a wide array of progressive organizations see Boebert as helping to instigate with her oft-repeated and utterly bogus claims of election fraud in Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
Indeed, Twitter briefly suspended Boebert's account on January 13 over this January 9 tweet: "Hillary must be pissed it took the DNC until 2020 to successfully rig an election." The platform subsequently stated that the plug-pulling was a mistake and restored the message, albeit with the following addendum: "This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can’t be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."
Here's an excerpt from Buentello's suit, filed on January 17 in United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
Buentello is a concerned citizen, and constituent of Boebert, who has tweeted criticism of Boebert. Boebert responded to Buentello’s valid criticism by following the lead of her authoritarian hero — Donald Trump — and blocked Buentello from viewing her Twitter account, replying to her Tweets, or otherwise engaging with those who interact within the replies to her tweets.
Boebert’s actions are particularly troubling given that she banned Buentello for pointing out Boebert’s role in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Boebert had fomented the attempted coup for weeks, incited the riot, and even tweeted out the location of the Speaker of the House (and other fellow congressional representatives), in an apparent attempt to aid those who had stormed the Capitol. Instead of reckoning with the fatal consequences of her fascist attempts to overturn a free and fair election, Boebert has doubled down and employed the online playbook of authoritarians across the globe: curating online speech to give the impression that she is viewed with universal adulation.
Buentello brings this lawsuit to vindicate her right to free speech and to teach Boebert that the United States Constitution does not begin and end with the Second Amendment. Elections matter. Constitutional rights are inviolate. And American democracy will not bend to the most belligerent among us.
The suit's main argument, Lane explains, is that Boebert "is a government official, and when a government official has a personal Twitter account and an official Twitter account, but they post about politics on both, the courts view both of them as public forums for politics. So if she blocks people as a public official, she is violating the First Amendment."
As a result, he continues, "We're asking the court to enter an injunction barring her from blocking people on her Twitter account — and the court is required to move quickly on a preliminary injunction. I anticipate that within two weeks, we should either have a hearing or, if Boebert has any brains, she'll cave. From Donald Trump to the lowliest dogcatcher in America, if people are elected officials and they're posting people things but then blocking people who disagree with them, they've lost in court all over the country. If she doesn't cave, she's going to cost taxpayers money to fight a losing battle."
Lane adds: "The courts have held that the Internet is the new marketplace of ideas, and when the government acts to stifle it, that should be the concern of every single American who values our freedom. But it's no concern to Lauren Boebert, because she's ignorant of what the Constitution requires — which is really sad when we're talking about an elected congressional representative."
This particular elected congressional representative defeated a longtime incumbent, Republican Scott Tipton, in the primary, before defeating Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in November. Last week, Republican and former Colorado state rep Cole Wist tweeted, "I miss Scott Tipton." Asked if he has similar feelings, Lane replies, "I don't miss Scott Tipton, but by comparison to Lauren Boebert, he was a First Amendment scholar."
Boebert's communications director, Ben Goldey, resigned last week. In his absence, Jeff Small, her chief of staff, offered the following response to Westword's inquiry about the lawsuit: "The office will not be commenting on any pending litigation."
Click to read Bri Buentello v. Lauren Boebert.
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