DENTON, Texas – Re-affirming the decision of a previous district court judge’s ruling, the Texas Ethic Commission’s politically-motivated case against the president of Empower Texans was dismissed.
[side_text]”For the sake of silencing the critics of their political puppet-masters, the TEC will smear anyone and violate the most basic of rights. I’m honored to be in this fight so other Texans won’t have to.” – Michael Quinn Sullivan[/side_text]Ruling that the TEC actions against Michael Quinn Sullivan were in violation of the state’s Citizen’s Participation Act, the court affirmed the initial dismissal of the case by Denton County’s 158th District Court Judge Steve Burgess.
“Twice now a court has ruled that the Texas Ethics Commission violated Sullivan’s First Amendment rights,” said lead counsel Joe Nixon. “The commission was flat-out wrong, which has now been twice affirmed.”
Last month in Denton County, Burgess had ruled that the TEC’s actions against Sullivan ran contrary to the state’s Citizen Participation Act. Rather than appeal the case, the TEC attempted to smear Burgess’ reputation by convincing a visiting judge to recuse Burgess from further consideration.
Burgess was not removed for bias, but for appearances based on false claims made by a Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist on Twitter. Burgess has since publicly noted that he was unaware that his campaign maintained a Twitter account.
Acting on complaints prepared by the lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyer’s Association and filed by allies of House Speaker Joe Straus for the purpose of silencing Sullivan, the Texas Ethics Commission had given Sullivan the maximum fine possible.
The first full hearing before Burgess lasted five hours, and concluded with Burgess dismissing the TEC’s case. The hearing today lasted more than an hour, with the new judge affirming the prior ruling.
While the state’s Citizen Participation Act requires the award of fees and costs as well as sanctions, the new judge did not make those awards in his dismissal.
The TEC can appeal the ruling to the 2nd Court of Appeals, resulting in more costs to taxpayers.
“What I have witnessed for three years is that the TEC has devolved into an agency in which their process is the punishment. For the sake of silencing the critics of their political puppet-masters, the TEC will smear anyone and violate the most basic of rights,” said Sullivan. “I’m honored to be in this fight so other Texans won’t have to.”