I've read Justice Thomas's opinion in Biden v. Knight First Amendment..., which seems to reverse Knight v. Trump. I'm trying to understand how this came about. I gather Donald Trump was unhappy with the decision in Knight v. Trump, and so an appeal makes sense, but how did Joe Biden's name appear in the decision?

How do I find a copy of the petition asking the supreme court to review the case?

2 Answers 2


Knight Institute v. Trump was a First Amendment case. Because Donald Trump is only obligated to adhere to the First Amendment insofar as he is a government actor, the Knight Institute sued him in his official capacity, i.e., it sued the President of the United States, who at that time happened to be Donald Trump.

Therefore, a change in officeholder does not change the fact that the holder of the office is a party to the suit. Under the Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

An action does not abate when a public officer who is a party in an official capacity dies, resigns, or otherwise ceases to hold office while the action is pending. The officer's successor is automatically substituted as a party.

This sort of thing is therefore incredibly common, as there are constantly countless lawsuits against high-ranking government officials who are subject removal and replacement at any time, especially around the time of a change in administration.

In case you're wondering, the party names were flipped when the case went to the Supreme Court because Trump was not technically filing an appeal, but rather filing a new lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to issue a writ of certiorari, which directs the lower court to send it a certified record of the case for review. Trump's petition is here.


Available documents are here. This is petitioner's last brief, which observes that "Respondents sued President Donald J. Trump solely in his official capacity". There was a change of administration the following day, which mooted the case, so petitioners argued that "Biden will have no ability to control the use of Donald J. Trump’s personal Twitter account", therefore "the Court should follow its established practice of granting certiorari and vacating the judgment below", which is what happened. The initial question raised is

Whether the First Amendment deprives a government official of his right to control his personal Twitter account by blocking third-party accounts if he uses that personal account in part to announce official actions and policies.

There are a lot of gaps that you can fill in from the docket files above.

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