Texas’ First Court of Appeals has ruled that Waller County had no jurisdiction to sue a private citizen, Terry Holcomb, who merely filed a complaint against the county. The ruling by the appeals court reverses a decision made by a lower court in Waller County.
Holcomb, a pastor and founder of the pro-gun group Texas Carry, filed a complaint against Waller County in 2016 arguing that they were unlawfully prohibiting citizens from carrying firearms in the county’s administrative building.
State law allows governments to prohibit firearms in courtrooms; however, the law allows citizens to carry firearms into county administrative offices. Since the Waller County courthouse contains both a courtroom and administrative sections, Holcomb maintained that Waller County had to allow citizens to exercise their rights in the administrative parts of the building.
Shockingly, Waller County then sued Holcomb for damages up to $100,000 in retaliation for filing a complaint. County officials claimed that the suit was merely to get the state to weigh in on the law. Yet if that was the case, they should have sued the state instead of a private citizen.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton then filed a lawsuit against Waller County in order to bring them into compliance with the law. Paxton agrees with Holcomb’s complaint that the county is violating state law in restricting citizens’ gun rights.
Paxton’s office has applauded the appeals court’s recent decision vindicating Holcomb.
“This is a great day for the First Amendment and the right of citizens to participate in government,” Paxton said. “Waller County should be embarrassed and ashamed of using litigation as a tool to silence someone who merely called on it to stop violating a state law.”