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Naomi Howard Argues Free Speech Challenge to Narrow Section of Texas Open Meetings Act

Rusty Hardin & Associates appellate and trial lawyer Naomi Howard delivered a compelling free speech argument before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a case that challenges the broad nature and vagueness of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Ms. Howard represents Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal in his appeal of a criminal indictment for violating the state open meetings law by talking to a local political group with a county commissioner and a consultant about a road bond election. The elements of that discussion were referenced in a press release and debated in a subsequent open meeting. In the end, the road bonds were approved by the citizens of Montgomery County in an election.

“This case is about giving members of governing bodies the same right of Free Speech that everyone else in this country enjoys. This case is about recognizing that one section of seventy-seven sections of an entire chapter of the Texas Government Code unconstitutionally restricts Free Speech,” Ms. Howard and other attorneys with the firm argued in their legal brief.

Also representing Judge Doyal on appeal are Rusty Hardin, of counsel and former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Cathy Cochran, and firm partner Andy Drumheller.

The indictment against Judge Doyal was dismissed by a state district judge who agreed that a portion of the open meetings law was unconstitutional, but the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont reversed his decision. It is the appeal of that ruling that is being considered by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“We are simply asking this court to restore the right of public servants to speak freely, and to replace witch hunts with good government,” Ms. Howard said.

The case is Craig Doyal vs. the State of Texas, Cause No. 09-17-00123-CR in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.