Court: Social media blocking by St. Louis official violated constitutional rights

Jan 31, 2024 | Political News

Former St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, now serving a prison sentence for an unrelated fraud charge, violated a constituent’s constitutional rights when he blocked her for making critical comments on social media, a federal appeals court said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Tuesday upheld a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of Sarah Felts, an abortion and civil rights activist in St. Louis.

On Jan. 26, 2019, Felts criticized Reed’s support for closing the St. Louis Workhouse, a medium security jail, according to Tuesday's ruling. Felts posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “What do you mean by ‘change the messaging around #CloseTheWorkhouse,’ @PresReed? #STLBOA #aldergeddon2019 #WokeVoterSTL.”

Reed, who resigned his position in 2022 after pleading guilty to two counts of bribery in U.S. District Court, blocked Felts hours after her post. She sued Reed for violating her First and 14th Amendment rights by blocking her from the account. Reed unblocked Felts after she filed the complaint, according to the ruling. The district court ruled in her favor, stating his action was viewpoint discrimination in a designated public forum.