A federal judge this week ruled that a high profile First Amendment case filed by PEN America against President Trump can continue to trial.
In a March 24 ruling, Judge Lorna Schofield in the U.S. Southern District of New York dismissed four of PEN America’s six claims against the president, finding that Pen lacked standing. But she held that the case could go forward on two claims related to press credentials and security clearances, for declaratory relief only.
The suit, PEN America v. Trump, was first filed in October of 2018. PEN America is represented by Protect Democracy, the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information & Access Clinic, and Davis Wright Tremaine.
The suit was initiated after president Trump made numerous threats against journalists and other organizations whose coverage he disliked, including a threat to "blacklist" reporters such as CNN's Jim Acosta. Just days after the suit was filed, the Trump administration revoked Acosta’s credentials after he asked a critical question at a press conference. The complaint points to at least five more situations in which the president has “used or threatened to use the regulatory and enforcement powers of government to punish the speech of journalists.”
"This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed," said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, in a statement. "We sued the president because we believe the First Amendment prohibits him from retaliating against speech he dislikes. We are grateful that this essential suit can move forward, vindicating the rights of all those who rely on a free press.”
Kristy Parker, counsel for Protect Democracy, said the president has the right to tweet about his media coverage, but that he "abuses his power and violates the Constitution" when he punishes members of the media. "This is not North Korea—we don’t allow our politicians to control what the press says or punish the media for coverage that Dear Leader doesn’t like. Just the opposite—we rely on the media to hold the powerful accountable to the people. It’s important for all Americans that the press can do their jobs freely.”
The case will now move into the discovery phase.