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Hogan, ACLU reach settlement on Facebook lawsuit

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Gov. Larry Hogan and civil liberties groups have been odd over whether the governor can delete comments on his Facebook site and block those users if his staff feels the remarks are offensive. (Photo illustration by Maximilian Franz)

Gov. Larry Hogan and the ACLU of Maryland appear to have reached a settlement in a lawsuit related to the Republican’s deletion of comments from his Facebook account.

Details of the settlement remain largely unknown and have not been filed with the court.

Deborah Jeon, lead attorney on the case for the civil rights organization, declined to comment.

“The dismissal is contingent on settlement being finalized,” Jeon said in a statement. “We are working on that.  If settlement is not finalized, the case will be reinstated.”

A spokesman for the governor learned of the action from a reporter and could not immediately comment.

Both sides have 60 days to reach a settlement or file to reopen the case.

The civil liberties organization filed a lawsuit last August challenging the deletion of comments on Hogan’s official Facebook page months after sending a letter demanding the practice cease because it strips constituents’ of their right to free speech.

The group named Hogan, his communications director, Douglass V. Mayer, and his director of correspondence and constituent services, Robert F. Windley, as defendants.

The organization is representing four Maryland residents — James Laurenson, of Bethesda; Meredith Phillips, of Columbia; Janice Lepore, of Catonsville; and Molly Handley, of Odenton. All four 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, President Donald Trump’s policies or calls for the governor to oppose certain federal actions.

Other comments made earlier this year were deemed by Hogan’s staff to be offensive.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the ACLU alleged the governor has a “policy of censoring constituents’ speech … by blocking those who disagree with him and deleting their comments.”

“Governor Hogan and his staff are engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination to remove certain ideas or perspectives from a broader public debate,” the ACLU said in its lawsuit.

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 alleged, however, that several were later blocked again.

The case is James Laurenson et al. v. Governor Lawrence J. Hogan et al., 8:17-cv-02162.


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One comment

  1. boyd20707@yahoo.com

    Unbelievable. Four hundred fifty comments blocked and then reblocked. So much for honesty and integrity. What a disgrace.