AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging whether the Texas Open Meetings Act was constitutional.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the case Sept. 10, agreeing with the Texas attorney general that it was moot because the plaintiffs had left office.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott defended the open meetings act as "fundamental to our democratic system of government."
The case had held potential consequences for open meetings laws in a number of states.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and other attorneys general had asked the 5th Circuit to reverse an earlier ruling in the lawsuit. Stenehjem said the ruling would have given elected officials a constitutional right to meet in secret.
Former Alpine City Council members Avinash Rangra and Anna Monclova mounted the challenge to penalties the act imposes on government officials. They said provisions in the act violated their freedom of speech as public officials.
In February 2005, Rangra was indicted on a charge of violating the act by allegedly sending e-mails to a council quorum that involved official government business. The charge was later dropped.