The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press lauded a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans (5th Cir.) on Tuesday that upheld the criminal sanction provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act in the face of a First Amendment challenge.
In the case of Asgeirsson v. Abbott, the court turned away a lawsuit by city council members in Alpine, Texas who argued that the law’s criminal penalties for knowingly holding meetings in secret violated their free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court agreed with the trial court, which found that the law was content neutral and did not violate the First Amendment.
“Today's decision recognizes that the Texas Open Meetings Act actually furthers the First Amendment's purpose by giving citizens access to the deliberations and decisions made by elected officials,” said Reporters Committee Freedom of Information Director Mark Caramanica. “The First Amendment should not be used as a sword by government officials in an attempt to hide their decisions from the public.”
The Reporters Committee wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in the case that was joined by 25 news organizations. The brief is available online.
About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.