Julian Raven, a New York artist who once sued the Smithsonian because the National Portrait Gallery refused to exhibit his portrait of former President Trump, has filed a new suit against its director, Kim Sajet. Raven’s complaint? Sajet, he says, has blocked him on Twitter.
Raven has soured on Trump in the years since the real estate developer forged an unlikely career in politics. He called on Trump to resign after his fans sacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and later urged the Portrait Gallery to cover a photo of Trump with black cloth.
This current pro se suit, filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia, rekindles an unusual and bitter feud with Sajet, who phoned Raven in 2016 to inform him that his 16-foot-long painting of Trump, which depicted the Republican with a meteor for hair alongside an eagle and a globe denuded of all continents but North America, was, in her words, “no good.”
Raven filed suit against the Smithsonian, claiming it had not subjected his painting to a proper review. He further honed in on Sajet’s Twitter account, saying she’d violated the Hatch Act by tweeting about the 2017 Women’s March in DC on the gallery director’s official Twitter account, content from which was later retro-migrated to Sajet’s personal account.
Raven’s Hatch Act complaint failed with the US Office of Special Counsel, as did his legal case in federal court. Judge Trevor McFadden, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, dismissed the action, saying Raven had “not articulated a plausible violation of the Constitution,” though he did describe the gallery’s actions toward him as “insults” that were “odious.” Raven has since published a book called Odious and Cerberus: An American Immigrant’s Odyssey and his Free-Speech Legal War Against Smithsonian Corruption.
It is in the promotion of this book that the new lawsuit emerged. By Raven’s account, all he did was send a tweet to Sajet on September 1, after which, he claims, the director blocked him. (A National Portrait Gallery spokesperson declined to comment.) This action, he says in the claim, is analogous to a 2019 case in which a federal appeals court held that Trump couldn’t block people on Twitter.
Raven’s suit asks that Sajet unblock him and that the court award him $902 in fees he’s incurred to file and serve the action. You can read it here: