Four Texas cities that filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the state’s open meetings law infringes on their right to free speech must withdraw as plaintiffs because government agencies cannot have their First Amendment rights violated, the state attorney general argued yesterday, according to the Associated Press.
Fifteen individual elected officials and the cities of Pfugerville, Rockport, Alpine and Wichita Falls filed suit against the State of Texas and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in December challenging the constitutionality of the state’s open meetings law, which prevents a quorum of government officials from deliberating behind closed doors and attaches a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for doing so.
As “creatures of the state” cities “may not assert constitutional claims against the state," Abbott argued in a motion to dismiss the municipalities from the lawsuit.
The lawsuit mirrors a recent federal case that became moot after the Alpine city council members seeking to overturn the law no longer held office. Attorneys for the previous plaintiffs have taken on the new case free of charge.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit that supported the constitutionality of the open meetings law during the first case.