Lauren Boebert, the bombastic new Republican congresswoman from Colorado, has been sued in federal court on allegations that she violated the free speech rights of one of her constituents by blocking the constituent on Twitter.
Bri Buentello, a former Democratic state representative who lives in Pueblo, brought the legal action on Sunday.
“Buentello is a concerned citizen, and constituent of Boebert, who has tweeted criticism of Boebert,” says the lawsuit, filed by powerful Denver civil rights lawyer David Lane. “Boebert responded to Buentello’s valid criticism by following the lead of her authoritarian hero – Donald Trump – and blocked Buentello from viewing her Twitter account, replying to her tweets, or otherwise engaging with those who interact within the replies to her tweets.”
Boebert blocked Buentello on her personal Twitter account, but Lane argues that since Boebert uses the account to share official policy positions it is unlawful for her to block constituents from viewing it. Boebert also has an official Twitter account, but it has far fewer followers and is much less active.
“Because of the way Boebert uses @laurenboebert, the account has become an important channel for news about her office and the United States government,” the lawsuit says. “Those who are blocked from the account are impeded in their ability to learn information that is shared only through that account.”
MORE: Read the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks the court to compel Boebert to unblock Buentello. It also seeks damages and attorney fees.
Boebert’s congressional office declined to comment.
The legal action is the latest controversy to surround Boebert, who lives in Rifle, since she took office earlier this month. Her personal Twitter account was briefly suspended after she shared baseless claims about Democrats rigging the 2020 presidential election.
Boebert has grabbed national headlines for her desire to carry a handgun in the U.S. Capitol and for her efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Trump’s favor. On Saturday, news broke that Boebert’s spokesman, Ben Goldey, had resigned in the wake of the deadly, Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Buentello, who filed the legal action, served two years in the Colorado legislature before losing her reelection bid in November. She has been highly critical of Boebert, calling her a “white supremacist and unapologetic fascist.”
Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District spans the Western Slope and sweeps into Pueblo, where Buentello lives.
Tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been paid out in Colorado in recent years because elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, have blocked constituents on social media.
A lawsuit filed against Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, resulted in a $25,000 settlement. Another legal action brought against former state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, resulted in another $25,000 settlement.
Though there have been at least four settlements in Colorado lawsuits stemming from elected officials blocking constituents, there has not been a court ruling explicitly outlawing the practice. Courts in other states, however, have ruled it unconstitutional for elected officials to block constituents on social media because it impedes their ability and rights to participate in government.
The issue of public officials blocking people on social media has reached the highest office in the U.S., with a federal court ruling that President Donald Trump cannot bar access to his pages.