Facebook Page Of Chicago Alderman Found To Be A Designated Public Forum
The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order in a case where Alderman Jim Gardiner was accused of violating the First Amendment rights of constituents on his official Facebook page. In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman noted that Gardiner engaged in content-based and speaker-based restrictions on his Facebook page, such as deleting, hiding comments, and blocking users who voiced opposing political beliefs1.
This case was brought forth by six residents of Chicago’s 45th Ward, who argued that Gardiner, aware of the laws, silenced his critics in violation of the First Amendment2.
In the Memorandum Opinion and Order, Judge Coleman noted that:
The Facebook Page in question is identified as belonging to James Gardiner, “Alderman of the 45th Ward” and lists his official City contact information. (Dkt. 85 ¶ 7.) Even a cursory review of some of the Page’s posts reveals that they primarily relate to his duties as Alderperson and are not personal in nature, and Gardiner himself testified that he established the Page for “government purposes.” Id. And the harm inflicted on plaintiffs is that they were unable to see or engage with information related to their elected Alderman or issues pertaining to the Ward and its residents.
Judge Coleman also found that the Facebook page was “a designated public forum” and that Gardiner was “in violation of the First Amendment.”
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman’s Memorandum Opinion and Order can be accessed here4.