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The criminal case against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley has just seen a major development with the revelation that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is getting involved on the side of the prosecution.

Doyal and Riley were indicted in 2016 on charges of conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act after having secret discussions about a road bond proposal. Rather than try the two under the law, activist Judge Randy Clapp of the 329th District Court decided to throw out TOMA saying it was unconstitutional and dismissed their case.

However, special prosecutor Chris Downey immediately appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed to take up the case and will hear oral arguments on November 9th.

On October 13th, Paxton joined the case, filing an 18-page amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief against Doyal and Riley. Paxton believes that his office has a vital interest in the case because TOMA is essential to transparency in government.

“The Office of the Attorney General has a specific and heightened interest in this litigation because the Texas Open Meetings Act is a predominantly civil law that is vital to the open functioning of all levels of government in Texas,” said Paxton in the brief.

Doyal’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, is arguing that TOMA is “unconstitutionally vague,” a notion that Paxton refutes:

“Far from being overbroad, it applies only to those who knowingly seek to circumvent TOMA’s disclosure requirements,” said Paxton. “(TOMA) enforces disclosure by making it a misdemeanor to knowingly and secretly deliberate with a walking quorum.”

Paxton says the law, “is narrowly tailored to promote Texas’s compelling interest in good governance.”

By centering their whole defense around trying to overturn TOMA, Doyal and Riley are working to undermine transparency and accountability for all Texans. The results of their trial will have broad implications, which is what compelled Paxton to get involved and seek to have the charges reinstated against Doyal and Riley.

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