In the United States Supreme Court, "First Amendment interests are everywhere," as usually confident justices appeared to be somewhat uncertain

The cases in question were examining the ability of government officials to block criticism on their "personal" social media pages, a practice that Donald Trump often engaged in when he was president.

The first of the cases on Tuesday involved two members of a local school board in Poway, California. They had blocked two persistent critics on their social media pages, and the parents sued, claiming that the school officials had used their governmental powers to infringe on their right to free speech.

Representing the school board members, attorney Hashim Mooppan told the justices that social media pages were an extension of the officials' campaign pages and, therefore, had a purely personal nature since the government did not control them.

This prompted Justice Samuel Alito to ask, "What if you show a Facebook page to a thousand people, and 999 of them think it's an official page? Under your test, does that not matter?"

"It should not matter," Mooppan replied.

Justice Elena Kagan interjected, "So, does that mean that President Trump's Twitter account was also personal?" She raised the issue of Trump's practice of blocking critics on his Twitter account.

"I think that was a more complicated question," Mooppan responded, noting that a government staffer helped set up Trump's page.

This did not satisfy Justice Kagan. "I don't think a citizen can really understand President Trump's presidency, if you will, without having access to everything that the president said on that," she said. "It was an important part of how he used his power. And to cut a citizen off from that is to cut a citizen off from part of the work of the government."

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking Twitter followers. LAW The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking Twitter followers. Whom can you exclude? Justice Sonia Sotomayor continued to press attorney Mooppan, asking if a school board member's social media page could be considered personal, could they "exclude Muslims, Jews, anyone they wanted to exclude... because it's a social media account?"

Mooppan argued that these were not government social media pages; they were campaign pages. "My clients were elected officials who were running for re-election. So, what they were doing is what officeholders across the country do in the normal course. They were talking to their constituents, showing what good jobs they were doing, and why they should be re-elected." And they were doing it on their personal social media pages.

Several justices raised questions about school board members devoting their pages to school business. Why wouldn't that turn their pages into a place where public business was being conducted? Mooppan argued that school business could just as easily be discussed at the back of a school board member's driveway or, for that matter, at a campaign event open only to members of the Republican or Democratic parties.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett chimed in, noting, "I think it's really hard when you've got an official who can, in some sense, define the scope of their own authority." Ultimately, she added, "My clerk could just start posting and say, 'This is the official work of the Barrett chambers, right?'"

Attorney Mooppan replied somewhat cryptically, "The higher up you go on the chain, the harder it is to find the boss who can tell you what to do."

What constitutes state action? Arguing the opposite position on behalf of the blocked critics of the school board, attorney Pamela Karlan contended that the parents were denied access to important information about the public school system that was available only on the personal pages of the board members.

Justice Alito asked how blocking a critic on a social media page was different from a government official at a grocery store dismissing criticism by telling the critic to call his office.

Karlan replied that when a government official is "clearly not in the performance of their official duties, i.e., pushing a shopping cart down an aisle, they may not be acting as a government official." But she added, "If they say that they're acting in their official capacity, then, yes, they're a state actor." In essence, she argued that a government official discussing state business on social media cannot cut off citizens without infringing on their First Amendment rights.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked Karlan if her position would be the same if the White House press secretary invited a select group of reporters to her home for dinner, leaving out other members of the press. "Would that be state action?" he asked.

Karlan responded that there would be "no cognizable constitutional claim" that uninvited reporters have the right to come to dinner. However, she argued that if the press secretary held a press briefing and excluded certain reporters based on their viewpoints, that would be different.