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.