Today in the Federal District Court of Hawaii, the Hawaii Defense Foundation has filed a lawsuit for violations of the First Amendment. The Defendants in this case are the City and County of Honolulu and a Honolulu Police Officer, Capt. Andrew Lum.
The complaint filed in the United States District Court by attorneys Richard Holcomb, Alan Beck, and Brian Brazier alleges that the Honolulu Police unlawfully administer their Facebook Fan page in violation of American citizen’s right to free speech. The complaint asserts that the Honolulu police arbitrarily moderate the page by deleting comments and banning users who post or make comments unfavorable to the department. The complaint further asserts that online speech is just as important as a citizen airing their grievance in a public park – just because the speech is virtual, doesn’t mean it is not protected.
On August 21, 2012, Plaintiffs filed this action against Defendants City and County of Honolulu (the “City”) and Andrew Lum (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments when Plaintiffs’ posts to the Honolulu Police Department’s social media page on Facebook.com were removed and Plaintiffs were blocked from making further posts. Doc. No. 1, Compl. at 1, 11-13. That same day, Plaintiffs also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, which sought to restore Plaintiffs’ deleted posts, permit Plaintiffs to post to the HPD’s page, and prohibit Defendants from banning people or removing posts based on political content.
Following several status conferences, Defendants agreed to develop a policy, through negotiations with Plaintiffs’ proxy, the American Civil Liberties Union, governing public posting on HPD’s Facebook page. Accordingly, the court deemed the Motions for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction moot. Thereafter, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations, reaching an agreement in principle by January 2013, but failing to resolve the form of dismissal documents and issues regarding payment of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
On October 23, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to claims against Defendant Andrew Lum. On January 16, 2014, the parties reached a settlement on all issues except payment of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and the pending motions were terminated.
On January 21, 2014, the parties filed a Stipulation dismissing all claims, but acknowledging Plaintiffs’ right to file a subsequent motion for attorneys’ fees. The underlying Motion for Attorneys’ Fees followed, in which Plaintiffs sought an award of $64,690.29. After the F&R recommended that Plaintiffs be awarded attorneys’ fees of $22,064.39, Plaintiffs filed their Objections on May 5, 2014 and an Errata on May 6, 2014. Defendants filed a Response on May 21, 2014, and Plaintiffs filed a Reply on May 27, 2014. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.