In a development that has local conservatives outraged, one Texas county’s DA is seeking a restraining order barring a defense lawyer from posting prayer requests on Facebook.
On Thursday, Ellis County’s District Attorney Patrick Wilson filed a motion in district court to prohibit lawyers from Griffith & Associates, a Waxahachie law firm, from posting their prayers and requests for prayers on social media.
Citing six posts by Griffith & Associates on social media, Wilson is asking a judge to prohibit extrajudicial statements on social media such as this Facebook post from November 2015.
“Today I embark on a trial with a young man’s future in my hands. I pray that the Father place his compassion, passion and words in my heart. I pray that He makes me the advocate I need to be to get true justice for my client. I pray He cloak me in his embrace and that I understand that all I need to do is be honest, be real, be passionate and listen. Amen.”
The statement appears to be allowed under the formula provided in rule 3.07 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which addresses extrajudicial comments by attorneys.
In fact, that rule even contains a comment noting that it is “intended to incorporate the degree of concern for the first amendment rights of lawyers, listeners, and the media necessary to pass constitutional muster. The obligations imposed upon a lawyer by this Rule are subordinate to those rights.”
The motion is also drawing major concern from conservatives at First Liberty, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom.
“We are still investigating the specifics of the case, but we firmly believe that attorneys do not lose their First Amendment freedoms simply because they practice law,” said Mike Berry, Senior Counsel for the organization. They have the same right to free religious expression that is constitutionally guaranteed to every American. If the attorney in question was in compliance with the state’s ethical rules of conduct and did not disclose any privileged information, as appears to be the case, there is no reason his speech should be censored.”
Each of the six posts cited by Wilson in his motion relate to the religious liberty of the attorneys at Griffith and Associates.
Yet Wilson is asking the court to prohibit Griffith from making the statements, arguing that the posts may bias the jury pool in Ellis County.
One can’t help to conclude, however, that the district attorney’s decision to file such a petty and absurd motion may do much more damage to the jury pool in Ellis County, who will left questioning the judgment of their prosecutor.