Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday issues a 3-0 decision upholding the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) over a First Amendment free speech challenge. The case is Asgeirsson v. Texas Attorney General, No. 11-50441 (5th Cir. Sep. 25, 2012).
TOMA provides that most government meetings be open to the public, and provides that violations are punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in county jail. Asgeirsson and other municipal officials challenged this penalty as violating free speech. The appellate panel rejected the argument, finding the prohibitions against private meetings to be a permissible, content-neutral time, place or manner restriction. The court also rejected claims that the TOMA public meeting requirement is unconstitutionally overbroad or vague.