Tuesday, September 25, 2012
5th Circuit upholds Open Meetings Act
Good news on a sleeper issue that has worried your correspondent for some time: A three judge panel at the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas Open Meetings Act, which local politicians had challenged on First Amendment grounds, claiming they should have the right to deliberate about public business in secret. Given that Texas' Open Records Act - since changed to the Public Information Act - has been gutted over the years by the courts, the Legislature, and various Attorneys General, the Open Meetings Act remains the most meaningful legacy of transparency reforms enacted in the 1970s following the Sharpstown bank scandal. A victory by the plaintiffs and their allies at the Texas Municipal League would have been a calamity for public accountability. Plaintiffs vowed to continue to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, but most observers I've talked to believed that if they were to prevail, it would happen at the 5th Circuit. Here's a link to the opinion (pdf).