San Francisco — The Dhillon Law Group filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of San Francisco journalist Susan Dyer Reynolds against Dean E. Preston, a Democratic Socialist member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Preston violated Ms. Reynolds’ First Amendment rights by blocking her from his Twitter page.
Susan Dyer Reynolds, the Editor Emeritus of the Marina Times, is a veteran San Francisco journalist. Like many journalists, Ms. Reynolds maintains a presence on Twitter so she can follow and engage with public officials and other participants in the world of San Francisco politics. But Ms. Reynolds can no longer view Supervisor Preston’s tweets because Supervisor Preston blocked her for criticizing his policy stances. “Dean Preston trampled on Ms. Reynolds’ constitutional rights,” said Dhillon Law Group associate, Jesse Franklin-Murdock. “We look forward to vindicating Ms. Reynolds’ rights in court and sending a clear message to San Francisco elected officials that they cannot shield themselves from criticism by walling off the virtual town squares they create on social media.”
Dean Preston is notorious for positioning himself at the outer fringe of San Francisco politics, describing defunding the police and abolishing prisons as “movement goals.” Yet for all his bluster, Supervisor Preston cannot stomach criticism of his extreme views, and retaliated against Ms. Reynolds for arguing for the commonsense notion that we should have police and prisons. First, Supervisor Preston illegally blocked Ms. Reynolds from his Twitter page. Next, Supervisor Preston tried to exclude Ms. Reynolds’ publication from participating in a city-funded advertising program.
In a 3-0 opinion in July 2022, the Ninth Circuit held that public officials create designated public fora when they use their social media for official purposes. They therefore cannot, in most circumstances, ban members of the public from the public fora they create. Supervisor Preston’s actions here are especially egregious because Ms. Reynolds is a journalist, and Supervisor Preston is clearly targeting her because she critically reported on his policy positions.
“Journalists play a critical role in keeping public officials honest and the public informed,” said Dhillon Law Group counsel, Karin Sweigart. “When politicians wall themselves off to avoid accountability like Supervisor Preston did here, they violate the First Amendment.” Supervisor Preston and the San Francisco City Attorney have ignored calls to right Supervisor Preston’s unconstitutional conduct. Ms. Reynolds is accordingly seeking punitive damages and injunctive relief to prevent further violations of her First Amendment rights.