Milwaukee, WI - A federal judge ruled on Friday, Jan. 5, that former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. will stand trial later this month for a social media post calling a man a "snowflake."
U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller dismissed most of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Daniel Black against Clarke, but left intact a claim that Clarke retaliated on Facebook for Black's exercise of his First Amendment right to shake his head at Clarke.
Then-Sheriff Clarke said he was on a flight on Jan. 15, 2017, when Dan Black tried to intimidate him by standing menacingly over Clarke while the sheriff was seated.
The sheriff texted ahead, and Black was met by deputies when he deplaned at the Milwaukee airport.
Deputies detained Black, questioned him, and then led him out of the airport.
Black posted his account of the incident on social media.
Clarke responded on social media and called Black a snowflake.
In February, 2017, Black sued Clarke and the six Milwaukee County deputies, claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure, retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights by having him stopped at the airport and for Clarke's Facebook post, and claimed 14th Amendment violations. The suit also sought to have the county held liable for Clarke's actions.
In a 27-page order, Judge Stadtmueller said on Friday a jury should decide whether Clarke's reaction on Facebook was the kind of threat or intimidation that amounted to retaliation against Black. The Facebook post from Clarke read, “Cheer up, snowflake . . . if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.
The judge granted summary judgment to Clarke on the Fourth and one of the First Amendment claims, dismissed the 14th Amendment claim as "completely without merit," and dismissed the claim against the county and the six deputies, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"While Clarke's actions reflect poor judgment, they do not shock the conscience," to a degree to support the due process claim, Judge Stadtmueller found in his order.
Judge Stadtmueller also found that Black's 15-minute discussion with deputies after arrival at the airport was not a seizure, since the deputies used friendly language and weren't expecting to arrest or cite Black.
Now a jury will decide if Black really is a snowflake.
Do you think that Clarke's social media posts violated his rights? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.