The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU”) has settled a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the ACLU’s members and Maui plaintiffs Chuck Carletta and Mele Stokesberry.
The suit – filed after repeated refusals by Maui County (“County”) to revise its rules -sought immediate changes to County laws prohibiting people from displaying signs on sidewalks and along roadways. Under the terms of the settlement, the County will modify these rules to comply with the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment.
Maui County Code section 12.42.030 prohibited sign-waving within 50 feet of any traffic control signal, twenty feet of a pedestrian crosswalk, or six feet of the edge of the pavement or other surface of the highway.
In January 2013, the County threatened to enforce this ordinance against a parade, even as County law enforcement held its own sign waving events with impunity. Stokesberry and Carletta, alarmed by the overly broad and unequally enforced ordinance, agreed to work with the ACLU to challenge it.
Maui Peace Action activist Chuck Carletta, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said: “We are delighted that we were able to resolve this lawsuit so quickly, so that we – and all other Maui residents and visitors – can continue to march, protest, and sign-wave without feeling threatened.”
Mele Stokesberry, Maui Peace Action founder and a co-plaintiff in the case stated: “The right to protest is being threatened by increasingly coercive policing throughout the United States, and it’s up to each of us to remain vigilant to preserve and reinforce these fundamental freedoms. We’re proud to stand with the ACLU in protecting our First Amendment rights to speak freely and to have our voices heard.”
“The law was so broad that it effectively prohibited campaign sign-waving, protests, picketing, parades, or other demonstrations across large portions of three islands,” said ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck. “While we tried to get the County to do the right thing and change these clearly unconstitutional rules without going to court, that was what we had to do. We are pleased with the outcome and grateful to Mele and Chuck for supporting the free speech rights of all people in Hawaii.”