Hickman faces First Amendment lawsuit 

Ward 4 council member Bill Hickman

NORMAN — Activist Casey Holcomb has filed a lawsuit against Ward 4 council member Bill Hickman in Cleveland County District Court.

The suit alleges that Hickman, acting as a moderator of the Ward 4 Facebook page, violated Holcomb's First Amendment rights by censoring his comments on the digital forum.

Holcomb's attorney Kevin R. Kemper said the lawsuit's immediate intention is to see the court order Hickman to repost what was deleted.

Kemper said he expects the suit, which was filed Tuesday, to go before a judge Monday.

"We want the prior restraint to stop," he said.

Kemper said he intends to seek a subsequent hearing to get a permanent injunction and a judge to rule on the constitutionality of Hickman's actions.

"To me, this is old-fashioned prior restraint using 21st century tools," he said. "I'm [Holcomb's] attorney and his posts sometimes make me cringe, but it's pure First Amendment free speech and I completely support him in protecting that.

"This case, as simple as it is … has the makings of a case that could find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Hickman said the lawsuit is the latest in a line of personal attacks and nothing more than political theater intended to damage his mayoral campaign.

"This is a frivolous lawsuit and nothing more than last-minute theatrics to try to influence the outcome of an election," Hickman said in a written statement. "The ward pages in Norman were created by citizens and political activists and are not official pages of the city or any city officials. In fact, neither I nor any city official has access to the information requested in the lawsuit.

"As we know, anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason. It's disappointing to see in our community the bullying, intimidation and a high amount of vitriol found in some of these social media groups. Because the lawsuit makes allegations against the city and me in my official capacity, the city will defend these claims, and we are confident the judge will see this for what it is."

In response to questions about the timing of the lawsuit, which, according to Kemper, is now slated to be heard the day before the Feb. 12 election, Kemper said he asked for an emergency hearing last week, but the case was assigned to Judge Thad Balkman, who was on vacation at the time.

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.

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