By Wendy Osher
A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a Maui couple who had sought changes to the county’s sign ordinance.
The lawsuit stemmed from a Jan. 21, 2013 demonstration in which members of the group Maui Peace Action joined in carrying signs as part of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day march through downtown Wailuku.
According to court documents, plaintiffs, Chuck Carletta and Mele Stokesberry claimed the county ordinance (identified as section 12.42.030 of the Maui County Code) was “overly broad” and “unequally enforced.”
The code prohibited sign-waving within: 50-feet of any traffic signal; 20-feet from a pedestrian crosswalk; six-feet from the edge of the pavement or other highway surface; on a median strip of a divided highway; on an overpass structure that crosses above or is adjacent to a highway; or on a traffic island.
The complaint noted that the MLK march proceeded down Main and Market Streets where the sidewalk was narrower than six-feet along some parts of the march route, and passed within 50-feet of numerous traffic signals and within 20-feet of numerous crosswalks.
Under the terms of the settlement, representatives with the ACLU say, “the county will modify these rules to comply with the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment.”
County Communications Director Rod Antone commented on the settlement confirming that an agreement had been reached. “Part of that settlement agreement includes changing the ordinance but we have to go before council to do that so no details are available at this time.”
Carletta offered comments on the settlement in an ACLU media release saying, “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.”
Stokesberry, who was a co-plaintiff in the case, and the founder of the group Maui Peace Action said, “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.”
ACLU Hawaiʻi Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck said, “the law was so broad that it effectively prohibited campaign sign-waving, protests, picketing, parades, or other demonstrations across large portions of three islands.”
He continued, “We are pleased with the outcome and grateful to Mele and Chuck for supporting the free speech RIGHTS of all people in Hawaiʻi.”
The group Maui Peace Action specifically encourages disarmament through peaceful international cooperation, protests preemptive aggression, promotes non-violent solutions to world conflict, and educates for social justice.
The full text of the complaint is available here (.pdf).