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NNA welcomes decision by appeals court
The National Newspaper Association (NNA) has expressed its approval of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upholds the Texas Open Meetings Law.
A group of city government officials had argued that requiring them to discuss their work in open meetings was a violation of their own free speech rights. But the court said the Texas law’s requirements were not a First Amendment violation. “Transparency is furthered by allowing the public to have access to government decision making,” the court said.
The case is Asgeirsson v. Abbott, handed down Sept. 25. Asgeirsson and a group of fellow city council members in Alpine have carried on a long-running court battle over the Texas Open Meetings Act because of the criminal penalties in the law. Following two indictments against city council members for holding email discussions about public matters without complying with open meeting requirements, local officials sued. Though the indictments were dropped, some local council members continued to argue that fear of criminal prosecution was inhibiting their free speech. Over more than six years, dozens of local Texas officials and five cities have been involved in multiple appeals because of the open meetings law’s requirements.
The appeals court’s decision upholds a district court decision that the open meetings law may affect the officials’ speech, but that because the law applies regardless of the content of the speech it does not offend the First Amendment.
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