MORRIS – A Morris man alleging that Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland violated his First Amendment right to free speech has sued the county's top prosecutor.
The suit was filed with the Grundy County Circuit Clerk's office last Tuesday, and a hearing took place Monday.
The lawsuit brought by Robert Hendrickson alleged that Helland blocked Hendrickson from commenting on Helland's Facebook page after Hendrickson posted comments critical of Helland's performance as state's attorney. Hendrickson is seeking a declaratory judgment, temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction.
During Monday's hearing, Judge Robert Marsaglia said that the case involves "a novel legal issue," that he would not issue a temporary restraining order by affidavit and that he wanted to hear testimony in person. The hearing for the testimony will be Wednesday at noon.
Hendrickson's attorney, Robert Geiger, pointed out that Facebook forums have become a new assembly point for public discussion, especially in the age of COVID, and that, although the alleged incident of Hendrickson being banned took place in June of 2019, the emergency that necessitates a temporary restraining order is that Hendrickson's First Amendment rights are being violated.
Helland's attorneys said that they plan to enter a motion to dismiss the case based on the fact that Helland has blocked all people from posting on the page, not just Hendrickson. Geiger countered by saying that there was a third-party post on Helland's page as recently as Sunday.