Even as the Court prepares to hear argument next week in two cases exploring the legal ramifications of public officials’ social media activity (Lindke v. Freed and O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier), it has added a third high-profile social media dispute to the merits docket. In Murthy v. Missouri, the Court put on hold—over the alarmed dissent of three Justices—a lower court injunction that sought to limit federal officials’ engagement with social media companies on questions of content moderation. In doing so, the Court also acceded to the Solicitor General’s request that the federal government’s stay application be treated as cert petition, which the Court then granted “on the questions presented in the application.” On the flip side of the coin, the Court declined to intervene in disputes involving Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act and Louisiana’s redistricting map for the 2024 elections.

See below for more detailed summaries of the orders.

In Murthy v Missouri (Oct. 20), the Court summarily granted a stay of lower court proceedings and further treated the stay application as a cert petition, which the court granted. The stay puts on hold a lower court injunction (modified by the Fifth Circuit) that would have restricted government communication with social media companies regarding content moderation policies. Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, dissented: “This case concerns what two lower courts found to be a ‘coordinated campaign’ by high-level federal officials to suppress the expression of disfavored views on important public issues.... To prevent the continuation of this campaign, these officials were enjoined from either ‘coerc[ing]’ social media companies to engage in such censorship or ‘active[ly] control[ling]’ those companies’ decisions about the content posted on their platforms. Id., at *7, *15. Today, however, a majority of the Court, without undertaking a full review of the record and without any explanation, suspends the effect of that injunction until the Court completes its review of this case, an event that may not occur until late in the spring of next year. Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing…. Despite the Government’s conspicuous failure to establish a threat of irreparable harm, the majority stays the injunction and thus allows the defendants to persist in committing the type of First Amendment violations that the lower courts identified. The majority takes this action in the face of the lower courts’ detailed findings of fact.... [W]hat the Court has done, I fear, will be seen by some as giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views on the medium that increasingly dominates the dissemination of news.”

In Missouri v. United States (Oct. 20), the Court summarily declined to stay (pending appeal) a lower court order invalidating the state’s Second Amendment Preservation Act as unconstitutional in its entirety under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Justice Thomas would have granted the stay, and Justices Gorsuch and Alito issued a statement admonishing that “[a]n injunction purporting to bind private parties not before the district court or the ‘challenged’ provisions ‘themselves’ ... would be inconsistent with the ‘equitable powers of federal courts.’ Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, 595 U. S. 30, 44 (2021).”


In Robinson v. Ardoin (together with Galmon v. Ardoin) (Oct. 19), the Court summarily declined to intervene in the proceedings below, which involve a Voting Rights Act challenge to Louisiana’s redistricting map. The Court thereby left in place a Fifth Circuit mandamus order directing a district court to cancel a hearing that had been scheduled for purposes of drawing a new legislative map (the district court having enjoined the previous map under the VRA), indicating that the state legislature should first be permitted more time to redraw the map. Concurring, Justice Jackson noted: “I read the Fifth Circuit’s mandamus ruling to require the District Court to delay its remedial hearing only until the Louisiana Legislature has had sufficient time to consider alternative maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act.... The State has now represented, in its filings before this Court, that the legislature will not consider such maps while litigation over the enacted map is pending.... Therefore, the District Court will presumably resume the remedial process while the Fifth Circuit considers the State’s appeal of the preliminary injunction.”

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