ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump's lawsuit to get his Twitter account restored must be heard in a California court, not a Florida one, under a user agreement covering everyone on the social media platform, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola in Miami rejected Trump's contention that because his Twitter account was suspended during his last days as president the California court requirement did not apply to him.
The requirement, known as a forum selection clause, was in force when Trump originally joined Twitter as a private citizen in 2009, Scola wrote in his order issued Wednesday.
“First, Trump’s former status as the president of the United States does not preclude the application of the forum selection clause. Second, the forum selection clause is valid and mandatory,” Scola wrote in a 13-page order.
The decision means Trump's lawsuit will be heard in a northern California federal court instead of in Miami. A similar lawsuit by Trump against YouTube has also been transferred from Florida to California, while yet another Trump lawsuit against Facebook remains in Miami for now.
Twitter banned Trump's account on Jan. 8, two days after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. In making the decision, Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection.
So far, more than 680 people have been charged with crimes stemming from that insurrection and a congressional committee is examining what led up to the riot.
Trump and other conservatives sued Twitter on July 7, claiming that the decision to suspend his account violates his First Amendment rights and amounts to an attempt to censor conservative voices under coercion from Democrats.
At the time, Trump's @realdonaldtrump account had more than 88 million followers on Twitter.
Twitter's user agreement states that all legal actions against the San Francisco-based company must be brought only in northern California state or federal courts. Scola's ruling found that Trump did not make the required legal showing to keep the case in Florida, where Trump has his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
“Twitter’s forum selection clause is mandatory, not permissive,” Scola wrote.
The lawsuit, a potential class action, will now move to a federal judge in the northern district of California.
Twitter reports it has more than 200 million users subject to the same agreement and bound by the California legal forum for any lawsuit against the company.
Curt Anderson, The Associated Press