The ACLU of Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan are asking to stay a federal lawsuit over the deletion of Facebook comments from the governor’s page so that they can negotiate a possible solution.
The joint motion was filed Friday, the day Hogan’s response to the complaint was due, and proposes to stay proceedings until Nov. 15.
The parties have engaged in negotiations since the lawsuit was filed Aug. 1, according to the motion, and want to “focus on possible resolution of the case rather than expending resources on litigation.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on behalf of four Maryland residents who were subject to having their comments removed from Hogan’s Facebook page and were blocked from being able to see and comment on other posts made on the governor’s page. The deleted comments by the four related to state issues, Trump policies or calls for the governor to oppose certain federal actions.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement in August and said they will continue to remove hateful and violent content.
The lawsuit names Hogan, his communications director, Douglass V. Mayer, and his director of correspondence and constituent services, Robert F. Windley, as defendants.
As many as 450 people were blocked from the page in February, when the ACLU sent Hogan a letter accusing him of censorship. Hogan never responded directly, according to the ACLU, but the governor’s staffers told the media they had unblocked most of the individuals identified. The lawsuit alleges, however, that several were later blocked again.
The complaint seeks a declaration that the policy governing the page is unconstitutional on its face and as applied.
The case is James Laurenson et al. v. Governor Lawrence J. Hogan et al., 8:17-cv-02162-DKC.
Daily Record state government reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this report.