Court Rules Texas Open Meeting Law Doesn’t Violate Free Speech

We told you last week about the odd case of Rangra v. Brown, in which a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two former Texas city councilors who alleged that the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The public officials were indicted under TOMA for discussing city business via private e-mail, and filed their lawsuit even though the original indictment had been dismissed. AAN joined two dozen other media organizations in an amicus brief (pdf) arguing that the full 5th Circuit court sitting en banc should overturn the panel’s ruling.

The full court today dismissed the First Amendment challenge against TOMA as moot, since both plaintiffs stepped down from the city council in May. I haven’t read today’s order (pdf), but one of the lawyers involved in the case notes that there was one dissenting judge — the same judge who authored the panel decision below that the 5th Circuit vacated — and he basically accuses his colleagues of being too lazy to hear the arguments in the case. Sounds like a good one.