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FILE - This Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, file photo shows a Twitter app on an iPhone screen, in New York. Twitter reports quarterly financial results on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

MADISON — After a federal judge in New York ruled that President Donald Trump violated the constitutional rights of those he blocked on Twitter, a Wisconsin case was given new life.

On Wednesday, the Madison-based progressive group One Wisconsin Now celebrated the ruling and brought attention to its own similar lawsuit.

In October 2017, the group filed a lawsuit against the offices of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester; Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum; and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette; for blocking the group on their public official Twitter accounts.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, and it asks for One Wisconsin Now to be unblocked and to prohibit the public officials from blocking others. It also asks the defendants in the case to pay for attorney fees.

After the ruling on the Trump Twitter case, Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now’s executive director, said the organization is “encouraged by this ruling and the fact elected Republicans are being reminded that when they create a public forum, they can’t silence people with whom they disagree.”

Group gets blocked

The case pertains to Vos’ account, @repvos. According to the lawsuit:

One Wisconsin Now began following Vos in about January 2011 and “monitored the Vos account tweets, commented on the account’s tweets, retweeted the tweets, and mentioned @repvos in its own tweets.”

The group acknowledges it has been critical of Vos’ positions on student loan debt refinancing, private school vouchers, and the same “Campus Free Speech” bill co-sponsored by Kremer, among other issues.

About March 16, 2017, the group alleges that “Vos blocked or caused One Wisconsin Now to be blocked from the Vos account,” preventing it from receiving notifications of the tweets in real time, and it prevented Vos from learning about tweets he was mentioned in from One Wisconsin Now.”

Vos told The Journal Times on Thursday morning that his @SpeakerVos account is his public account and his private account is @repvos.

One Wisconsin Now does follow the @speakervos account.

The group states that although it has been critical of the defendants via their Twitter accounts, “It has not posted anything threatening, obscene, or defamatory.”

The lawsuit states the defendants’ accounts are “designated public forums,” and that blocking the group infringes on its First Amendment rights and that “It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on One Wisconsin Now’s speech in a designated public forum and impedes One Wisconsin Now’s ability to communicate with its Twitter followers and others.”

“It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on One Wisconsin Now’s right to access statements that defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large,” the lawsuit states.

“It also imposes an unconstitutional restriction on One Wisconsin Now’s right to petition the government for redress of grievances and a prior restraint on One Wisconsin Now’s speech. These restrictions are not narrowly tailored to serve any permissible governmental interest”

The case is ongoing and Vos, along with the other public officials, are represented by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel.

This story has been updated with further clarification on which Twitter accounts Assembly Speaker Robin Vos uses for personal and private use. 

“(One Wisconsin Now) is encouraged by this ruling and the fact elected Republicans are being reminded that when they create a public forum, they can’t silence people with whom they disagree.” Scot Ross, executive director, One Wisconsin Now
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Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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