In May of 2020, Georgian Tomas Miko sued his then-State Representative Vernon Jones in federal court for allegedly violating Miko’s First Amendment rights when Representative Jones blocked Miko from his Facebook page after having “initially exchange[d] barbs with Miko” regarding their differing political opinions.  Representative Jones never answered the lawsuit, leading to a default judgment or, in non-legal terms, an automatic “win” for Miko.  On January 17, 2023, the court awarded Miko a total of $45,652: $8,000 in compensatory damages and $37,652 in costs and fees.

U.S. District Court Judge Steven Grimberg, who presided over the case, found that Representative Jones had violated Miko’s rights by blocking him on Facebook and awarded Miko a total of $8,000 to compensate him for what the court called “an especially severe curtailment of Miko’s First Amendment rights.” In his order, Judge Grimberg explained that the “unique circumstances” presented by the pandemic “made constituents’ in-person, telephonic, or other nonsocial media communication with their elected officials temporarily impracticable.”

Finally, Judge Grimberg noted that the $8,000 award, in his view, “is sufficient to deter Jones and other public officials from engaging in similar misconduct,” while also awarding Miko recovery of $37,652 in attorneys’ fees and other costs for a total judgment against Jones of $45,652.

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with campaign finance and election law.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.