SOUTHERN COLORADO – Pueblo resident Alexander Armijo sued state Senate President Leroy Garcia for blocking him off his professional Facebook page and deleting a comment he posted.
“He took to Facebook to comment on Senator Garcia’s page to comment on about firing the secretary of the state Senate,” said his attorney Andy McNulty.
Even though both parties settled, Armijo’s attorney says the case sets a precedent for public officials everywhere that they are not allowed to censor their comments or block their constituents.
“This violates the first amendment to the United States Constitution,” McNulty said.
“Facebook pages of public officials are forums for free speech, just like a digital town hall.”
McNulty says in-person visits are out and social media is in.
“It’s easier and easier for people to directly, not only interact with their representative, but with other folks who are constituents, to exchange views, to talk about policies, and it’s just a really essential portion of our modern day political system,” McNulty explained.
And the judge, in this case, agreed, ruling the page must unblock Armijo and refrain from deleting comments unless those comments are threatening or considered obscene.
But in the end, both parties settled.
“He’s that happy he got the result that he got,” McNulty noted.
“But I think everyone should be happy too because the first amendment protects us all, and any time one person stands up for their rights, they’re standing up for the rights of everyone else.”
Senator Garcia’s attorney, Ed Ramey, issued the following statement about the lawsuit:
“Social media is a new area, but a common challenge across the country as the laws governing it continue to evolve. As of now, all comments, including those crude, offense, or vile, are required to be published on an elected officials page. Until case law clearly establishes guidelines, many more elected officials across the country will continue to face legal challenges.
President Garcia’s Facebook page is related to his Senatorial duties and therefore the bipartisan Legislative Legal Services Committee unanimously voted to retain legal counsel.”
Taxpayers are on the hook for the lawsuit’s $25,000 settlement, split among Armijo and his attorney.