Public officials throughout the state of Texas filed a lawsuit Monday to overturn the state’s open meetings law, claiming the provision that bars officials from meeting in secret violates their right to free speech.
More than 20 elected officials and a dozen cities across the state, including Pflugerville, Rockport, and Alpine, have signed onto the lawsuit against the State of Texas and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, which was filed in federal court today in the West Texas city of Pecos. The complaint is not yet available.
The Texas public officials are arguing that 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, violates their free speech rights even though prosecutions under the law are rare.
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. Prior to the case’s dismissal, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell in Midland, Texas, upheld the constitutionality of the act in 2006.