Updating our July roundup item: a Baton Rouge, La. police officer injured at a demonstration sued activist DeRay Mckesson and, purportedly, the Black Lives Matter movement after being injured during a protest. After Mckesson’s lawyers challenged the inclusion of the latter-named movement on the grounds that it is not a juridical person capable of being sued, plaintiff moved “to amend his complaint to add “#BlackLivesMatter” and Black Lives Matter Network, Inc., as Defendant.”
A federal court was not impressed. It ruled that the officer had not pleaded adequate facts to sustain a claim that either Mckesson or the incorporated entity had gone beyond their own rights to speech, as protected by the First Amendment, to become legally responsible for the violent actions of others, that the initial complaint “names as a Defendant a social movement that lacks the capacity to be sued,” and that the attempted amendment to the complaint likewise overlooks that “#BlackLivesMatter” – a hashtag – lacks the capacity to be sued.” (Italics are the court’s.)
The Court judicially notices that the combination of a “pound” or “number” sign (#) and a word or phrase is referred to as a “hashtag” and that hashtags are utilized on the social media website Twitter in order to classify or categorize a user’s particular “tweet,” although the use of hashtags has spread to other social media websites and throughout popular culture. The Court also judicially notices that “#BlackLivesMatter” is a popular hashtag that is frequently used on social media websites.
Plaintiff therefore is attempting to sue a hashtag for damages in tort. For reasons that should be obvious, a hashtag – which is an expression that categorizes or classifies a person’s thought – is not a “juridical person” and therefore lacks the capacity to be sued. Amending the Complaint to add “#BlackLivesMatter” as a Defendant in this matter would be futile because such claims “would be subject to dismissal”; a hashtag is patently incapable of being sued. [citations and footnote omitted]
Rejecting the option of granting plaintiff further leave to amend his complaint,
The Court also notes that Plaintiff’s attempt to bring suit against a social movement and a hashtag evinces either a gross lack of understanding of the concept of capacity or bad faith, which would be an independent ground to deny Plaintiff leave to file a Second Proposed Amended Complaint. The Court therefore shall dismiss this matter with prejudice.