Attorneys general from more than a dozen states asked a federal appeals court in New Orleans this week to review a ruling that they warn could cripple their open meetings laws.
A ruling last month by a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a lawsuit that city council members in Alpine, Texas, filed against the local district attorney and state attorney general after two members were charged with violating the state's open meetings law. The council members allegedly violated the law by discussing a city project in an exchange of e-mails. ...
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office says the 5th Circuit's ruling could serve as a precedent for striking down any open meetings law that doesn't pass that test.
"Until the panel's ruling," Abbott's office wrote, "no court had ever held that any of these statutes is a content-based restriction on speech subject to strict-scrutiny review under the First Amendment, nor have these statutes been struck down -- in whole or in part -- for violating the Amendment's free speech protections."
In a court filing Monday, attorneys general for Louisiana and more than a dozen other states joined Abbott in asking for a rehearing by all of the 5th Circuit's judges.
"Subjecting open meetings laws to 'the most stringent review' of strict scrutiny ... is wrong as a matter of precedent and logic," Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell wrote. "But it would also practically cripple the operation of those laws."
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Open meetings laws a First Amendment violation?
Here's an unfortunate and potentially devastating new ruling by a 3-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that deserves to be overturned en banc, via the Chicago Tribune: