Friday, November 9, 2012

UPDATE: Texas Officials Look to U.S. Supreme Court to Curb Open Meeting Law Sanctions

U.S. Supreme Court building.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fifteen Texas elected officials across the Lone Star State will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their  claim that the penalties imposed by the Texas Open Meetings Act ("TOMA") [Tex. Govt. Code Sec. 551.001(3)] violated their First Amendment rights, the Amarillo Globe News reports.

In a story oft-reported here (see "TUOL" posts 7/29/10, 2/4/10, 12/15/09), elected officials who violate the provisions of TOMA face a $500 fine and up to six months in jail, sanctions the appellants argue violate their First Amendment rights. The officials contend the widespread use of emails and social media make it easy for elected officials inadvertently to violate TOMA.

Should the Supreme Court agree to hear the case, TOMA's backers don't sound particularly worried, according to the Globe News article. Texas' Former Solicitor General noted that the High Court has previously rejected First-Amendment challenges to Open Meeting Laws and Greg Abbott, the state's Attorney General, told the Globe News that TOMA is crucial because "[m]aking meetings accessible and allowing the public to see how decisions are made are the foundation of open government."
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