Hey, there! Log in / Register

Man who really wants his Twitter account back gets court-appointed lawyer to take on his increasingly convoluted conspiracy case against election officials

A federal judge today told Shiva Ayyadurai he would dip into a court fund to help pay for a prominent downtown lawyer to bring some sense to Ayyadurai's legal case against Secretary of State William Galvin's office and, possibly, Twitter, which as of today involves claims that the state and a national association of elections officials built a coast-to-coast racketeering effort in which Twitter acts as "the executioner" to dispense with online criticism of the state's sinister machinations by deplatforming people like him.

US District Court Judge Mark Wolf told Ayyadurai that he believes that the heart of the case is that Ayyadurai wants his Twitter account back and that a lawyer would help get the case to the core First Amendment and jurisdictional issues that Wolf sees as crucial to Ayyadurai's case.

When Ayyadurai first brought his case last October, he was seeking to overturn the Sept. 1 Republican primary, which he lost, alleging Galvin's office destroyed 1 million ballots, which the state has consistently derided as nonsense, largely because Ayyadurai claims the ballots were electronic copies, which the state says it does not even make. But the case now focuses on Twitter's decision in early February to deactivate his Twitter account for repeatedly claiming massive fraud by state elections officials.

People who bring civil lawsuits are not normally granted court-appointed and funded lawyers, but Wolf said he would make an exception for Ayyadurai because his case raises some crucial issues related to the First Amendment and the question of when a private company becomes, essentially, an agent of the state and so subject to the First Amendment, which normally does not apply to private companies.

In fact, Wolf said today, Ayyadurai's case raises issues that he could see becoming "a potential law-school exam in constitutional law."

As he said yesterday, Wolf said Ayyadurai may have made a case plausible enough to go to trial on whether complaints the state and the national association filed with Twitter in September when coupled with Twitter's decision to cut him off in February made Twitter into a "state actor" that unconstitutionally stomped on Ayyadurai's First Amendment rights.

Lawyers for the state, the association and Twitter - which Ayyadurai did not initially sue, but which he is now trying to get added to the suit - say Twitter ignored the September complaints and took action in February entirely on its own after determining Ayyadurai kept making illegitimate election-fraud claims in January, something that, as a private company, with its own First Amendment right to determine what goes on its platform, it is allowed to do.

Ayyadurai said he would agree to talk to Wolf's suggested lawyer, Howard Cooper of Todd & Weld, whom Wolf praised for his understanding of First Amendment issues. Wolf added that he had similarly appointed Cooper to represent Whitey Bulger in the 1990s, before he disappeared, and, more recently, an alleged MS-13 member rounded up after a series of teens were murdered in 2015 and 2016.

Wolf gave Ayyadurai until Thursday to formally agree to bringing on Cooper.

Wolf said he agreed to appoint counsel both because of the issues involved and because one of Ayyadurai's claims is that he brought the case by himself because he could not afford a lawyer after Twitter cut him off in January.

In fact, however, Ayyadurai's initial suit was filed Oct. 20 by a Plymouth lawyer, whom Ayyadurai fired a week later - long before Twitter disabled his account permanently.

At a hearing today, Ayyadurai went through a guide for election officials on how to deal with online misinformation, in part by pointing out ways to file complaints with Twitter. He seized on the fact that both the Galvin aide he's suing and the executive director of the National Association of State Election Directors, whom he is also suing are listed as contributors and said the guide proved how elections officials have turned Twitter into their mega-censoring tool.

A lawyer for the association, however, said the guide, in fact, shows the opposite, because one of its points is that, as a private company, Twitter is free to ignore complaints from election officials - which he and state lawyers said is exactly what Twitter did with their complaint about Ayyadurai last fall.

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

When I popped open my laptop this morning, I swore I wasn't going to write about his case again, because, gah, enough already! But then the judge up and decided to hire the guy a lawyer, and that's not something that happens every day in a civil case and by itself, that's just a paragraph, but then I have to explain why he's hiring him a lawyer, and so even without bringing up his accusations that Galvin controls not only Twitter but the Globe, the Times and every other mainstream-media outlet, obviously, because that's the only reason they haven't written a word about this obviously bigger-than-big, major, huge, even case, and, man, am I glad the weekend's coming up.

up
Voting closed 44

"Wolf added that he had similarly appointed Cooper to represent Whitey Bulger in the 1990s, before he disappeared, and, more recently, an alleged MS-13 member rounded up after a series of teens were murdered in 2015 and 2016."

Shiva: Grab him! He has other winners!

up
Voting closed 16

Billions of emails sent around the globe every day, and the dang inventor of it doesn't get a cut? Cruel injustice, I say.

up
Voting closed 27

Him again.
The posts are still there Shiva. What's your problem?

up
Voting closed 9

that the self-proclaimed Inventor of Email (and Real Indian) would take the hint on being gifted the same court-appointed lawyer as Whitey and follow Bulger's example and drop out of sight.

up
Voting closed 19

A whiny lunatic wingnut sues because he wants to play in someone else's private playground. Despite his long history of frivolous claims and ludicrous pronouncements, the plaintiff gets a federal judge to agree to hear his argument. And now we have to pay a high-priced attorney to aid and abet a taxpayer-funded temper tantrum. Our decline and fall continues.

up
Voting closed 17

No. This upholds the high standards of our legal system. Shiva is being afforded his constitutional rights, as asinine and frivolous most of his claims may be. Our downfall will be if we start picking and choosing who gets to exercise those rights.

up
Voting closed 19

Man presents evidence of alleged election fraud.
Man presents evidence of federal election law violations by sec. of state.
Secretary of state doesn't like that.
Secretary of state directs twitter to permanently silence the man.

why do you seem to think that's ok?

up
Voting closed 22

But like Brian said, he's being afforded his constitutional rights to make a case, and a judge has, so far, found there's a kernel of something in there that warrants further judicial inspection. That doesn't mean he will win or that he has actually made - or will be able to prove - his case that Bill Galvin and his minions are directing some massive, global conspiracy so horrible that even Ian Fleming would have had trouble conceiving of it.

One of the reasons the judge agreed to pay for a lawyer for him is because somebody who actually practices law will be able to narrow down the argument to its essential facts, rather than letting it balloon to cover more and more conspiracy theories, so that, ultimately, a jury can decide the case.

up
Voting closed 19

Court-appointed, taxpayer-funded public defenders are entirely appropriate, because a defendant may be deprived of his or her freedom.

Do you think we should pay for lawyers in civil cases too?

up
Voting closed 16

In civil matters that involve the deprivation of Constitutionally protected rights? Sure thing. That is what we are talking about here, Judge Wolf has found there may be infringement of Shiva's First Amendment right.

I have found no redeeming qualities in anything I've seen from Shiva, but he is afforded the same rights as all of us in this country. As a private citizen, I can freely say that I'd like him to STFU, but again, I am a private citizen and not acting on behalf of our public government.

up
Voting closed 10

When government grants an entity a section 230 immunity, “private playground” arguments fail.

up
Voting closed 8

The judge said he didn't think it applied here. He didn't amplify, but at the risk of almost thinking I know what I'm talking about, I'm going to suggest that's Twitter isn't being sued because of what some user said on its platform but because the issue involves what it may or may not have done itself.

up
Voting closed 12

That makes it the rarer case of 47 USC 230(c)(2)(A) not the more common 47 USC 230(c)(1). Still applies though.

up
Voting closed 7

When government grants an entity a section 230 immunity, “private playground” arguments fail.

Not in the least. In fact, that's what it is meant to promote and protect.

47 USC 230(c)(2)(A) allows a site to remove content if the site removed it in good faith on the basis of being objectionable, regardless of whether it is constitutionally protected speech.

And doing so doesn't imperil the site's safe harbor against someone unrelated suing them for having failed to take down something and therefore being liable for that through publisher liability, because 47 USC 230(c)(1) prevents the site from being treated as a publisher of third-party information, period.

Remember, the goal behind section 230 was to encourage sites to have community standards over what they would and would not allow, to be able to enforce them, and to not risk liability because they did so. Without it you can't have a family friendly site where moderators remove cursing, porn, etc. nor could you remove spam.

As for the argument about the state compelling the removal, I think it will fail. There was a recent Supreme Court case in which it was held that merely allowing members of the public to speak somewhere doesn't make the place a public forum. He'll have to prove that the site removed it because they were told to and not because they independently decided to. (I.e. "I'll do it, but not because you told me to")

up
Voting closed 16

Wolf added that he had similarly appointed Cooper to represent Whitey Bulger in the 1990s, before he disappeared,

Maybe Shiva will disappear this time?

up
Voting closed 19

Still wondering what Fran Drescher ever saw in this vapid waste of oxygen....

up
Voting closed 17

That he hasn't packed off to join the ethnic cleansing operations of Modi in India. Seems right in his wheelhouse.

up
Voting closed 15

I've been thinking this..

How does a brown dude from India even get any support in the republican party? He's not white. I'm surprised he's made it this far.

up
Voting closed 11

Presumably for the same reason the Log Cabin Republicans had any foothold, just straight tokenism.

Look at Sen Tim Scott, Dinesh D'Souza, David Clarke, Michelle Malkin, Andy Ngo, etc. It's just a way to say "Look, people of X minority support our odious position, how could it possibly negatively affect that minority?"

Additionally, he's got a strong academic pedigree, which can always be trotted out as a defense for his rantings, however cynical that strategy might be.

up
Voting closed 17

From Republican governor superboy to giving the opposition State of the Union street to deleted for being a big anti-Trumper early on.

To be clear, he was/is the worst but a very different kind of worst from Trumpers.

up
Voting closed 10

damn I forgot about him... he faded away into existence..

yeah I guess there have been a few

up
Voting closed 7

Can someone who has an understanding of what the judge is doing here break down the legal end of it for us non-legal scholar folks?

I don't feel like anything explicitly extralegal is going on here, but I am curious about how much "hand holding" is going on on the court's side. It seems like the judge found the proverbial needle in the haystack of Ayyadurai's pile of nonsense and has made it his own cause to litigate that one feature. For better case law? For legal history glory? I dunno.

My trouble comes from not being able to see how these actions are not a tacit endorsement of Ayyadurai's position, rather than an impartial observation, given that this is same judge who will eventually rule on the case.

up
Voting closed 10

Is that judges are required to "liberally construe" cases brought by pro-se litigants, because you have a right to go to court without a lawyer, so, yes, there is some hand holding going on here - if a lawyer tried to file some of the memoranda that Ayyadurai has, the case would be over by now, and the lawyer might be facing some disciplinary action.

Wolf actually addressed the non-lawyers among the roughly 300 people who tuned into the Zoomed hearing on Thursday, to caution them that some of the things he says have meanings in the legal world different from their meanings outside the courtroom.

For example, when he says Ayyadurai seems to have made a "plausible" case about the Secretary of State exerting influence over Twitter, that doesn't mean he's already decided to rule in Ayyadurai's favor, just that, at this point, the guy's made enough of a case to warrant going further with the case. He even said something to the lawyers on the call like "you understand that," then added he was not sure that the non-lawyers would.

The judge could still ultimately rule in favor of the state's motion to dismiss the case, and Twitter's motion to be kept out of it - he just doesn't think he has enough evidence and legal grounding yet to make that kind of decision.

I would never recommend anybody doing what I just did - spend like eight hours over two days watching the hearing on this - but it was fascinating to watch the Socratic method play out as the judge gets both sides to make their arguments to help him figure out what's really going on (leading to the point yesterday where he asked Ayyadurai what he really wanted to get, was it restoration of his Twitter account, and Ayyadurai answered yes - so there goes his desire to put Bill Galvin in prison, most likely).

It's the American legal adversarial system at work, and what seems like the judge siding with a conspiracy theorist might just be him keeping an open mind as the two sides battle it out in front of him so that he can come to a conclusion (which could be to dismiss the whole thing or could be to send it to a jury).

up
Voting closed 17

Thank you for that clear explanation. I wasn't aware of the more lenient requirements for pro se litigants, but it makes sense.

Thank you, also, for somehow forcing yourself through all of those hours of watching court. That sounds like, well, just a whole lot.

up
Voting closed 12

I'm here for the ballot eating chickens.

Galvin has yet to deny that he used ballot eating chickens to destroy all those shiva ballots.

Why not?

up
Voting closed 18

Who’s bringing the blue cheese?

up
Voting closed 11

Don't forget that the ballots in question are both electronic and nonexistent, so those are going to be some scrawny birds.

up
Voting closed 15

Kooks like this guy make life in the Big City much more interesting. Without people like the Real Indian to gawk at and scoff at, what would people in Boston talk about once people emerge and the city gets back to normal post pandemic? Bike lanes? Masks? Whether or not to build homeless shelters in JP? You do you, Shiva! Sitting by with the popcorn.

up
Voting closed 12