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Mayor Catherine Blakespear has reportedly restored several Encinitas residents' access to her mayoral Facebook page after receiving a cease-and-desist letter last week.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear has reportedly restored several Encinitas residents' access to her mayoral Facebook page after receiving a cease-and-desist letter last week. Courtesy photo
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Blakespear unblocks residents from mayoral Facebook page

ENCINITAS — Mayor Catherine Blakespear has reportedly unblocked several critics from her mayoral Facebook page after receiving a cease-and-desist letter last week from a local attorney representing a number of Encinitas residents claiming they were blocked from commenting on the mayor’s social media posts.

Michael Curran, an attorney at the Carlsbad-based law firm Curran & Curran Law, submitted the cease-and-desist letter on April 12 on behalf of Robert Nichols, former chairman of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, and approximately 15 other “citizens rights advocates,” requesting that Blakespear allow residents to freely exchange their views on her Facebook posts without being blocked or having their comments deleted.

On Monday, Curran told The Coast News that his clients reported having their full access to Blakespear’s Facebook page restored. Additionally, Curran said he corresponded with lawyers representing the mayor who indicated Blakespear had unblocked the residents in question. 

Blakespear did not respond to a request for comment on this story. 

As a result, Curran said that his clients would “probably” not be pursuing any further legal action against the mayor, although he maintained that his client’s rights had nonetheless still been violated and that further action was not totally off the table. 

“My clients have been damaged as a result of not being able to participate in free discussion and being blocked,” Curran said. “So this is something that we’re still in the process of discussing.”

Curran informed The Coast News on Tuesday afternoon that he also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Councilwoman Joy Lyndes on behalf of several of the same Encinitas residents.

While Curran said he appreciated the mayor’s reversal in allowing his clients back onto her Facebook page, he said that he was disappointed that it had taken legal action on behalf of residents to compel a response.

“Clearly what happened here is that [Blakespear] got caught violating actual law and failing to provide the public with equal access to a Facebook page that she provides and on which she does public business with the city,” Curran said. “When we pointed this out, they scrambled and she and her attorneys fixed it, so while we appreciate the fixing, we do not appreciate the original violations of the law that necessitated this action on our part.” 

The attorney sent the cease-and-desist letter claiming that Blakespear had prevented certain individuals — who had expressed viewpoints critical of the mayor and her policies — from viewing or commenting on her mayoral Facebook page in violation of free speech rights guaranteed under the U.S. and California constitutions. 

While there is no law against a private individual restricting access to their personal social media, recent federal rulings have determined that constitutional violations can be triggered if access is restricted to an elected officeholder’s social media page used to promote or discuss topics and duties related to their official capacity.

Since Blakepsear uses her official mayoral Facebook page as a forum to discuss city and regional business, events and projects, all speech on such a forum is subject to First Amendment protections, Curran argued. 

David Snyder, an attorney and executive director of First Amendment Coalition, previously told The Coast News that judges have generally considered officeholders’ social media pages as “public forums,” which are protected under the First Amendment. 

“Under the First Amendment, when there is a public forum, there are limitations on what public officials can do to limit expression,” Snyder said. “But the government cannot discriminate based on viewpoint. They cannot block speech because they disagree with you on a position. If the only thing talked about is public business and the officeholder lists themselves as ‘Mayor Joe Smith,’ that will likely be found to constitute a public forum and to limit the official’s ability to block people arbitrarily based on their political views.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the report of a similar cease-and-desist letter issued to Councilwoman Joy Lyndes.

1 comment

steve333 April 19, 2022 at 11:44 am

I find it odd that her page is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t have an icon for posting a photo or document.
I wonder if that is a violation? if it is, I hope they go through with the lawsuit. The more voters know about this corrupt woman the better

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