Attorney suing delegate for blocking him on Facebook says such action distorts expressive forum

By Kyla Asbury | May 14, 2019

CLARKSBURG – Harrisville attorney Scott A. Windom is suing Delegate Jason Harshbarger (R-Ritchie) claiming the representative blocked him on Facebook.

The case was originally filed in Ritchie Circuit Court in January before it was removed to federal court in February under District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh.

"The parties are waiting on the court to rule on a pending motion to dismiss," Windom said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "We had a hearing last month on that motion."

"The defendant has not yet filed an answer but he will do so if the court denies his motion," Windom said.


Harshbarger  

Windom filed the lawsuit against Harshbarger claiming during the 2018 legislative session, Harshbarger blocked him after he made comments about the "co-tenancy" bill – House Bill 4268 – which Harshbarger supported.

"Harshbarger's blocking of Windom's comments, replies or messages prevents or impedes Windom from replying to dialogue and discussion between Harshbarger and his constituents," the complaint said.

Windom claims to block opponents of bills on social media limits the dialogue between Harshbarger and his constituents.

Blocking Windom also violated his First Amendment rights by "distorting the expressive forum" Harshbarger and his non-blocked constituents participated in, according to the suit.

House Bill 4268 allowed for natural gas and oil companies to drill on land when they had consent from at least 75 percent of the owners. Gov. Jim Justice signed it into law last year.

Windom is seeking to have the Facebook blocking deemed unconstitutional and for the court to issue a temporary and permanent injunction against Harshbarger to unblock Windom. Windom is representing himself, along with Rodney C. Windom of Windom Law Offices.

Harshbarger is represented by J. Mark Adkins and Richard R. Health Jr. of Bowles Rice.

United State District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Case number: 1:19-cv-00024

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