DOJ has appealed the court ruling that President Trump cannot block people on Twitter. But the real news, as flagged by Cristian Farias, is that the President apparently has unblocked the plaintiffs in the lawsuit in the interim.
This unblocking is not something he has to do, and shows a compliance with the court decision that I wasn’t expecting. As I blogged on May 24:
Rather than order Trump to comply with an injunction (which is immediately punishable by the power of contempt), the court instead used a declaratory judgment, simply declaring that Trump is violating the law. “Finally, we consider what form of relief should be awarded, as plaintiffs seek both declaratory relief and injunctive relief. While we reject defendants’ categorical assertion that injunctive relief cannot ever be awarded against the President, we nonetheless conclude that it is unnecessary to enter that legal thicket at this time. A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”….
The court is right that ordinarily a declaratory judgment is as good as an injunction. It is implicitly coercive, and can be followed up by an injunction if necessary (note the “at this time” language in the court opinion). It is a “myth” that declaratory judgments are milder, as Sam Bray argues. And it made sense here for the court to piggy-back off that myth.
And yet, Donald Trump is a known norm breaker who has attacked the courts when they have decided against. It will be interesting to watch if the implicitly coercive declaratory judgment is enough to get Donald Trump to comply. Stephen Colbert even joked about it on The Late Show last night.
If Trump doesn’t comply, then we get into dicier territory, where an angrier judge can order Trump to comply and we will see what happens (as the President likes to say). Of course, this could all be mooted if the Second Circuit reverses on the merits on appeal….