DENTON, Texas – The 158th District Court in Denton County dismissed a case the Texas Ethics Commission had brought seeking to limit the First Amendment rights of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and its president, Michael Quinn Sullivan.
For nearly three years, the TEC had been acting to silence Sullivan and the grassroots organization he oversees. The TEC’s actions were based on complaints brought by a lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and two state representatives close to House Speaker Joe Straus.
“I am pleased with the court’s ruling, which came after taking careful consideration of the case’s facts and history,” said Sullivan. “It should not escape notice that on the very first day that a court reviewed the case, it was dismissed outright.”
The hearing lasted nearly five hours, with the TEC first asking the court to consider whether Sullivan was actually a resident of Denton County.
“The TEC desperately wanted this case to be heard only in Travis County, and vigorously fought the court’s scrutiny of the merits of the case,” said Trey Trainor, a partner at Beirne, Maynard & Parsons.
However, the court ruled that the state’s Citizens Participation Act, which protects the rights of speech, petition, and assembly, allowed for the dismissal of the case.
“The court indicated that it will be awarding attorneys fees and court costs, as is required by the Citizens Participation Act,” said Joe Nixon, also of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, who served as lead counsel in the case.
Sullivan concluded: “The TEC has devolved into an agency in which their process is the punishment. I’m glad I was able to be in this fight so that other Texans won’t have to.”