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Campbell v. Reisch

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 16, 2019

MIKE CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CHERI TOALSON REISCH, Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW.

          BRIAN C. WIMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         On April 19, 2019, the Court held a bench trial in the above-captioned case. Plaintiff Mike Campbell appeared in person and through counsel J. Andrew Hirth. Defendant Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch appeared in person and through counsel Lowell D. Pearson and Michael Owens. The Court, being duly advised of the premises, having considered the record, the evidence presented at trial, and the parties' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, finds as follows.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks a declaration that Defendant's blocking Plaintiff on Twitter “is a viewpoint-based restriction of speech in a designated public forum in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” (Doc. #22). Additionally, Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction barring Defendant from continuing to block Plaintiff from her Twitter page based on the content or viewpoint of Plaintiff's speech, and further, barring Defendant from blocking any other Twitter user based on the content or viewpoint of those users' speech.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. Plaintiff is an adult resident of Centralia, Missouri who is a registered voter within district that Defendant represents.

         2. Defendant is an adult resident of Hallsville, Missouri, and is a State Representative for the 44th District of the Missouri House of Representatives.

         3. Twitter is a social media platform with more than 300 million active users worldwide, including approximately 70 million users in the United States.

         4. Twitter allows users to publish short messages to the general public called “tweets”; to republish or respond to others' tweets; and to interact with other Twitter users.

         5. A tweet may include photographs, videos, and hyperlinks but cannot exceed 280 characters.

         6. Each Twitter user has a unique account name or “handle, ” which comprises an @ symbol followed by a word or phrase.

         7. Users may choose to “follow” other Twitter account holders by searching for their handles and clicking the “follow” button.

         8. A “followed” user's tweets automatically appear in the “following” user's Twitter “feed, ” which is a continuously-updating scroll of new tweets from other users.

         9. A user may comment on the tweets of other users, or she may “retweet” their tweets to her own followers.

         10. Users may also see a log of their own past tweets, comments, and retweets, along with any comments or retweets they have received from their own followers.

         11. Some Twitter users publish hundreds of tweets per day while others merely read the tweets that appear in their Twitter feed.

         12. Twitter also allows its users to block certain other users from following their tweets.

         13. If the blocked user attempts to follow the blocking user, or attempts to access the Twitter account from which the user is blocked, the blocked user will see a message indicating that the other user has blocked her from following the account and viewing the tweets associated with the account.

         14 Like many members of the Missouri General Assembly, Defendant has a Twitter account.

         15. Defendant uses the Twitter handle @CheriMO44.

         16. The “MO44” in her Twitter handle “CheriMO44” refers to the 44th District of the Missouri House of Representatives, for which Defendant is the elected representatives.

         17. On her Twitter page, Defendant describes herself as a “Christian, MO State Rep 44thDistrict, Mother, Grandmother.”

         18. Below Defendant's description on her Twitter page is a circle with a downward facing point and the words “District 44, Missouri, USA, ” which refers to her district in the Missouri House.

         19. Below the reference to her house district is a link to cheri44.com, which is Defendant's campaign page.

         20. The banner photo at the top of Defendant's Twitter page shows Defendant sitting at her desk on the House floor.

         21. The circular photo above Defendant's profile shows Defendant on the House floor.

         22. Defendant's Twitter account was created in September 2015 when she announced her candidacy for the 44th District of the Missouri House.

         23. The first tweet from Defendant's Twitter account, which was written by Defendant's nephew and released on September 21, 2015 stated, “I am proud to announce my candidacy to represent Missouri's 44th District. Let's work together and create opportunities for jobs and education.” 24. On November 17, 2015, Defendant tweeted a copy of a letter on her campaign stationery seeking contributions to her campaign for the 44th Missouri House seat.

         25. On November 20, 2015, Defendant tweeted a photograph of herself standing with Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson and thanking him for his leadership in the House.

         26. Throughout the first ten months of 2016, Defendant posted dozens of tweets about her campaign for the Missouri House, frequently using the hashtags #MO44 and #TeamCheri.

         27. On November 8, 2018, Defendant announced her successful election as Representative of the 44th House ...


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