Decision alleviates threat of baseless criminal indictments against local, state leaders
HOUSTON – Rusty Hardin & Associates scored a significant win at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which agreed with the firm’s argument that the state open meetings law confused government officials as to what they could and could not legally do.
The Feb. 27, 2019, decision from the highest criminal appellate court in Texas declared Section 551.143 of the Texas Open Meetings Act “unconstitutionally vague.” The court opinion said the statute lacked specificity, and any narrowing the judges might impose “would be just a guess, an imposition of our own judicial views.”
“We are thrilled for our client, who was not subverting the law when he had conversations with others about a road bond election,” said firm founder Rusty Hardin. “This was a case where prosecutors went overboard.”
The firm’s client, then-Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, was accused of violating the state open meetings law in 2015 when he discussed a road bond election with a county commissioner, a consultant and others. The elements of that discussion were referenced in a press release and debated later in a public meeting. The road bonds were approved by the voters in an election.
Appellate and trial lawyer Naomi Howard argued the case appealing Judge Doyal’s indictment. She said, “This is a win for hardworking government leaders who are just trying to do their jobs.”
Also representing Judge Doyal in the appeal were Mr. Hardin and Cathy Cochran, of counsel and a former Court of Criminal Appeals judge.
Presiding Judge Sharon Keller wrote in her opinion for the majority that the section of the statute in question is “unconstitutionally vague on its face.”
The case is The State of Texas v. Craig Doyal, Cause No. PD-0254-18 in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP has built a solid reputation for taking on the causes of its clients and obtaining favorable results in both civil matters and significant criminal cases. For more information visit https://www.rustyhardin.com/about-us/.