TOMA case may get Supreme Court review – “We’re Only Challenging Jail Time”

Originally posted January 10th, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The legal drama over the Texas Open Meetings Act has taken another turn as attorneys on behalf of the plaintiffs suing Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have filed a petition to have the Supreme Court of the United States review the case.

Plaintiff’s attorneys filed the petition for writ of certiorari on Thursday, December 20, seeking the Supreme Court’s reexamination of the case after a September 2012 ruling by a lower court panel, which upheld the law.

“There are several legal questions, a couple of which warranted review,” said William Mick McKamie, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the case include current and former Alpine City elected officials Diana Asgeirsson, Avinash Rangra, Angie Bermudez, James Fitzgerald and Johanna Nelson, along with elected officials from Wichita Falls, Pflugerville, Sugar Land, Heath, Arlington, Joshua, Rockport, Leon Valley, Whiteboro, Hurst and Bellmead.

TOMA is a state law that requires meetings of governmental bodies to be open to the public. It prohibits elected officials from participating in a closed meeting in which public business is discussed and acted on. A violation of the law is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine or jail confinement for up to six months.

It is this issue of punishment that is being contested, said McKamie.

“People say we’re challenging the entire statute. We’re only challenging jail time,” McKamie said, “We say you shouldn’t be put in jail for political speech.”

McKamie, along with Houston and Marfa attorney Dick DeGuerin and Craig Enoch are working on behalf of the plaintiffs, donating their fees. McKamie says nearly $2.5 million in attorney fees have been expended on this case.