It’s that time of year when the US Supreme Court is busy handing down decisions, and that means lawyer Tom Goldstein is busy making decisions too. He’s figuring out the best response to people who mistakenly tweet their frustrations about SCOTUS opinions to his SCOTUSblog Twitter account, thinking it’s the court’s official home on Twitter. Does this one warrant a Sponge Bob animation or meme? Or just some cheeky words?
“What in the hell is wrong with you?” a Twitter user tweeted at SCOTUSblog after the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, blocked the Trump administration’s plan to include a census question that asks about citizenship status. The answer: “How much time do you have?”
Another citizen outraged by the decision tweeted that he “WILL NOT FILL OUT THE 2020 CENSUS.” Replied the SCOTUSblog: “Even if we let you do it in crayon? Asking for nine friends.”
The US Supreme Court doesn’t have an official Twitter presence, and Twitter users eager to engage with the nine justices appear to ignore SCOTUSblog’s Twitter bio stating in all caps that it’s NOT THE JUSTICES OR THE COURT.
The blog, run by Goldstein and his wife and former law partner Amy Howe, has been around since 2002 and is “devoted to covering the US Supreme Court comprehensively, without bias and according to the highest journalistic and legal ethical standards,” according to their web site. “The blog is provided as a public service.”
Goldstein, who has argued cases before the most powerful court in the land, calls this annual tweeting ritual the “running of the trolls.” It sees citizens from both the left and right attempting to let the justices know just how upset they are about court decisions. “We do our best to oblige in equally thoughtful terms.”
The tweetstorm has led to problems in the past. In 2016, Twitter shut the SCOTUSblog account down, presumably thinking it had been hacked. “A Twitter employee who was in the know about our annual trolling got wind … and helped us get back online,” Goldstein told me.
This year, the account even alerted Twitter as the running of the trolls hit the digital ground, tweeting that, “We haven’t been hacked. Pretty please, don’t lock the account and block us.”
Twitter declined to comment beyond reminding users of tools like two-factor authentication for enhancing account security, but the running of the trolls has been marching ahead apace Thursday afternoon. And observers seem to be well amused.
“This is one of the more entertaining days of the year,” one wrote. Asked another: “Which justice is tweeting today? Is this Roberts?”
Originally published June 27, 2:48 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:14 p.m.: Adds that Twitter declined to comment.