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Texas’ Ninth Court of Appeals has decided to reinstate the criminal indictments against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Commissioner Pct. 2 Charlie Riley, and political consultant Marc Davenport. Doyal, Riley, and Davenport were originally indicted for conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act in June 2016; however, visiting Judge Randy Clapp dismissed the charges on the grounds that TOMA is unconstitutional.
In their decision, the Ninth Court of Appeals reversed Clapp’s decision and upheld TOMA as being constitutional:

“We conclude that section 551.143 describes the criminal offense with sufficient specificity that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited. The statute provides reasonable notice of the prohibited conduct. We conclude that the statute is reasonably related to the State’s legitimate interest in assuring transparency in public proceedings.”

Rather than attempting to prove their innocence under the law, Doyal and his co-defendants have instead tried to have the law thrown out. The case has critical implications for government transparency across the state, which prompted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to get involved. Paxton filed a brief siding with the prosecution and defending TOMA.
The Ninth Court of Appeals agreed with Paxton, and rejected Doyal’s arguments that TOMA is unconstitutional:
“The alleged overbreadth of section 551.143 is not real and substantial when judged in relation to its plainly legitimate sweep. Doyal has not satisfied his burden to prove that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”
The constitutionality of TOMA now upheld, the case will be sent back down to the district court level to be tried again under the law. If convicted, the defendants could face six months in prison and would immediately be removed from office for official misconduct.
The indictments could not have come at a worse time for Doyal and Riley, who are both facing tough re-election battles in the upcoming March 6 Republican Primary. Doyal is being challenged by State Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands), while Riley is bogged down in a three-way race against businessman Brian Dawson and former Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker.

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