Attorney General Ken Paxton today commended the Texas Supreme Court after it left intact a state appellate court decision that sanctioned Waller County for suing a private citizen who complained that the county was unlawfully banning firearms from its government building.
“Today’s ruling represents a huge win for individual freedom, the First Amendment and the right of citizens to participate in government,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Waller County had to be stopped from using litigation to muzzle someone who simply called on it to stop violating state law. The Supreme Court’s decision should deter other Texas governments from similar conduct.”
Last March, the First Court of Appeals of Texas overturned a Waller County district court’s ruling, concluding that the county lacked jurisdiction to sue Terry Holcomb Sr., and that he had a constitutional right to ask the county in a letter to comply with Texas’ open carry laws – without fear of a retaliatory or meritless lawsuit. The attorney general’s office filed a brief in the case, arguing that it should be dismissed.
Today’s Texas Supreme Court decision means that the case will return to district court with instructions from the appeals court to follow the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which protects individual use of free speech, and award sanctions and attorneys’ fees against Waller County and its attorneys.
Based on Holcomb’s complaint, Attorney General Paxton filed his own lawsuit against Waller County in August 2016 to bring the county into compliance with the state’s licensed carry laws. The lawsuit requires the county to allow citizens to lawfully carry firearms in areas of the Waller County government building that contain non-judicial county administrative offices.