Court Upholds Texas Open Meetings Law

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On September 25, 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that the Texas Open Meetings Act is constitutional and that it encourages free speech and government transparency in Asgeirsson v. Abbott.

The case began in 2005, when Alpine city council members were prosecuted for discussing city business in private emails. They sued saying the law was unconstitutionally vague and discouraged free speech because it had criminal penalties for knowingly holding meeting in secret.  Violations of the law are punishable by as much as six months in jail and a $ 500 fine. Officials from 15 Texas cities also challenged the law in 2009.

A U.S. district judge ruled against the city officials, holding the law was content neutral and did not violate the First Amendment.  The case was them appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the appellate court upheld the district judge’s ruling, declaring the TOMA constitutional.