The Supreme Court’s Decision
On December 11th, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to intervene in the case, Missouri v. Biden.
This case, scheduled for a hearing since October, is brought forth by state attorneys general and focuses on the U.S. government’s alleged pressure on social media platforms during and before the COVID-19 pandemic to censor user content.
Background of the Case
Evidence, including emails and documents obtained during the discovery phase, suggests that government officials urged social media companies to suppress individual users’ speech.
Both a district judge and a federal appeals court acknowledged evidence indicating governmental agencies’ involvement in speech suppression. The government’s subsequent appeal brought the case before the Supreme Court.
Kennedy’s Involvement and Appeal
Kennedy, currently an independent presidential candidate, initially filed a similar lawsuit, which was merged at the district court level with Missouri’s case. However, his request for an injunction was not addressed when the courts issued a preliminary injunction in the Missouri lawsuit.
His lawyers argued in the October motion to the Supreme Court that Kennedy and his co-plaintiff were left in a legal limbo, stating, “The Kennedy Plaintiffs remain stranded in the district court, even though their rights will be as fully adjudicated by this court as those of the Missouri v. Biden plaintiffs themselves.”
They emphasized Kennedy’s presidential candidacy and alleged targeting by the federal government.
Justices’ Response and Alito’s Dissent
Most justices rejected Kennedy’s motion without publicly explaining their decision. However, Justice Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush, presented a dissent.
He acknowledged the rarity of Supreme Court intervention but argued for granting Kennedy’s request. Justice Alito noted, “Because Mr. Kennedy’s arguments on the merits are essentially the same as respondents’, allowing intervention would not significantly affect petitioners’ burden with regard to that issue.”
He highlighted the potential delay in Kennedy vindicating his claimed rights, potentially impacting his presidential campaign. Alito also recognized Kennedy’s strong claim to standing, different from the government’s argument against the plaintiffs’ standing.
Implications of the Decision
The rejection of Kennedy’s intervention request could delay his case’s resolution until as late as June 2024. This delay poses significant implications for Kennedy’s campaign and the broader discussion of free speech in the digital age.
CHD, represented by Mary Holland and currently led by Kennedy on leave, expressed agreement with Justice Alito’s view, stating, “Mr. Kennedy and CHD have been directly harmed, and the court’s failure to allow intervention means that our rights are likely to continue to be violated until spring or even June 2024.”
Consequences of legal battle
The Supreme Court’s decision not to allow Kennedy’s intervention raises questions about the balance between government influence and individual speech rights on social media platforms.
As the legal battle continues, its outcome could have far-reaching consequences for free speech, especially in the context of political campaigns and public discourse in the digital era.