OPEN MEETINGS ACT CHALLENGE APPEALED
On August 11, 2011, the plaintiffs in a case challenging the constitutionality of the criminal penalty in the Texas Open Meetings Act appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. As reported in the April 1, 2011, Legislative Update, Judge Robert Junell of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a decision in Diana Asgeirsson v. Greg Abbott and the State of Texas on March 25, 2011. The case – commonly referred to as “Alpine II” or “TOMA II” – is the second challenge brought by several city councilmembers, who claim that the criminal closed meeting provision of the Act unconstitutionally infringes on their right to freedom of speech. Judge Junell ruled that the Act is a constitutional “time, place, and manner restriction.”
Plaintiffs seek to have the judgment reversed and the case returned to the District Court with instructions to enter a judgment striking down the criminal closed meeting provision of the Act and enjoining its enforcement. The League, in conjunction with the South Dakota Municipal League, National League of Cities, and The International Municipal Lawyers Association, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs.
This case is of special importance because of its capacity to undermine the First Amendment’s protection of public officials’ speech. TML will continue to monitor and report important developments in the case.