La. Sen. Katrina Jackson sued for allegedly violating First Amendment rights

La. Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe
La. Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe(Louisiana State Senate)
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:43 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Louisiana Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, is being sued by the Tulane University First Amendment Law Clinic over her decision to block Maya Detiege from her public Twitter account due to Detiege’s viewpoint and critical Tweets, according to a press release from the First Amendment Law Clinic.

The press release says the lawsuit demands Jackson reinstate Detiege’s access to the senator’s public Twitter account and pay for her legal fees. The lawsuit was filed in the federal court for the Western District of Louisiana on Thursday, Feb. 9.

The dispute began last June when Detiege objected to Jackson’s self-congratulatory Tweet in regards to authoring Louisiana Senate Bill 342, legislation that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state should the SCOTUS overturn Roe V. Wade. Gov. Edwards signed SB 342 into law just before the SCOTUS announced its decision in Dobbs.

The press release from the First Amendment Law Clinic says that when another user scolded Jackson for SB 342, Jackson tried to deflect the argument by highlighting taxpayer dollars put aside to fight against sex trafficking and in support of pregnancy centers.

Detiege then jumped into that interaction and criticized Jackson’s funding, calling it inadequate. Jackson Tweeted back, “Did you advocate for more?” The press release says Detiege then replied to Jackson that it is her role as a senator to advocate for such funding and wished her defeat in her next election.

The press release says this is when Jackson blocked Detiege from her Twitter account with no explanation. Clinic Director Katie Schwartzmann says Jackson’s actions is a violation of Detiege’s right to free political speech.

“Twitter is the modern version of the public square, the very space our founders held sacred under the First Amendment for the free exchange of differing viewpoints,” says Schwartzmann. “As an elected official, Senator Jackson should protect that space, encourage debate, and be ready to defend her stances. Shutting down dissenting voices is an attack on basic democratic values.” While the Twitter exchange certainly became charged, it by no means was outside the bounds of the First Amendment.

The press release says Jackson has a history of blocking Twitter users who disagree with her, which is a censorious habit the lawsuit is aiming to break.

“Debate and dialogue are what Jackson signed up for by running for office,” Schwartzmann said. “She owes it to our democracy not to hinder the free exchange of ideas – including ones she disagrees with.”

The press release says if the case is successful, it would further raise the wide understanding under the First Amendment that public officials cannot hide from critics on public social media platforms.

The case has been prepared and will be litigated by third-year Tulane Law student attorneys in the clinic, Shelby Rose and Matthew Warren, under the supervision of Schwartzmann and Stanton Fellow Virginia Hamrick.

The students will engage in work on all aspects of the case, from client interviews to drafting court filings, under faculty supervision.