John P. Coale, who is representing former President Donald Trump in lawsuits over his banishment from social media, said he isn’t worried about Twitter and YouTube trying to gain an advantage by moving the legal battle to a California court.
He said the case was destined for the Supreme Court where he gives Mr. Trump a “better than 50-50 shot of winning this thing.”
“I think we have a good shot,” Mr. Coale said in an interview. “We’re trying to get the courts, or the law, into the 21st century and social media is the means of communication in the 21st century.”
Mr. Trump filed lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook, and Google-owned YouTube along with the major companies’ CEOs in a Florida federal court in July. He alleged violations of First Amendment free-speech protection when the platforms banned him earlier this year.
Twitter wants Mr. Trump‘s lawsuit transferred to its home turf in San Francisco and Google-owned YouTube is preparing to request its case be transferred to California as well, according to court records.
Mr. Coale and Mr. Trump‘s other attorneys intend to push for the lawsuits to stay in Florida, but anticipate the controversy will eventually land in the Supreme Court.
Asked about which justices contributed to his optimistic outlook for the cases’ chances at the Supreme Court, Mr. Coale said it is hard to forecast but he thought the breakdown of the justices could be surprising to court-watchers anticipating a ruling falling along ideological lines. He noted that Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee, previously produced “strong” decisions on First Amendment and Fourth Amendment matters.
To get to the Supreme Court, however, Mr. Trump‘s legal team will need to survive the tech companies’ battle to kill the cases completely. Twitter views the case as meritless and wants it transferred to a federal court in San Francisco and immediately tossed.
The tech companies are relying on large law firms for the legal muscle to fight Mr. Trump. Facebook enlisted lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, a law firm that grosses more than $4 billion in annual revenue, according to American Lawyer Media. The law firms hired by Twitter and YouTube — Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr for Twitter and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for YouTube — also boast more than a billion dollars in annual revenues, according to reports.
Mr. Trump‘s team has previous experience tangling with well-financed adversaries. Mr. Coale was among the lawyers securing settlements costing cigarette makers billions of dollars in the 1990s.
Mr. Coale said Mr. Trump‘s team may have received an early advantage provided by the Biden administration when it called for a social media crackdown on alleged misinformation. The team is arguing that the tech companies took direction from the federal government in making censorship decisions.
In July, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the federal government was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation” regarding COVID-19.
“The night she did that, we opened champagne,” said Mr. Coale.