On September 25, 2012, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act, ruling that criminal penalties in the Act do not violate the First Amendment. Asgeirsson v. Abbott (September 25, 2012).
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the district court decision, ruling that the Act does not limit the officials’ First Amendment rights, as it is a “content-neutral time, place, or manner restriction” on speech. The three-judge panel evaluated the purposes of the Act, such as creating trust in government, increasing transparency, and ensuring that all members of a governing body may participate in the discussion of public business. Ultimately, the Court found that these purposes legitimized the need for criminal penalties within the Act. The Court ruled that the criminal penalties serve to compel disclosure, not curtail free speech.
Attorneys for the municipal officials vowed to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
This case is worth watching as the Illinois Open Meetings Act imposes similar penalties for violations of the Open Meetings Act. In
, a violation of the Act is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. Illinois
Post Authored by Erin Baker, Ancel Glink