Judge: Civil Beat Can Blog Honolulu Rail Lawsuit

Flickr: espensorvik

Civil Beat, with a federal judge's blessing, will live blog the lawsuit challenging Honolulu rail.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima issued his ruling Monday allowing Civil Beat to bring a laptop and internet access into his courtroom for all hearings in the case, so long as the blogging does not create a distraction.

The ruling comes about a month after Civil Beat asked for permission to blog from court. Tashima's decision isn't the first of its kind in Hawaii. Previously, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway allowed laptops and live updates from the Aloun Farms human trafficking trial in the summer of 2011 and has agreed to permit three news organizations to blog from the Global Horizons human trafficking trial next year.

The federal lawsuit is one of the two major hurdles remaining for the Honolulu rail project. Opponents say the city and federal governments did not adequately consider alternatives to the elevated steel-on-steel system and are asking Tashima to invalidate the project's environmental study.

If the lawsuit succeeds, it could spell the end of the project, which is on a tight timetable to secure federal funding that would pay for 30 percent of construction.

The next status conference in the case is scheduled for March 27 in California, though the opponents might seek an injunction if the city makes moves to start heavy construction in February as it has said it hopes to.

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