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A federal lawsuit is being filed against Llano County officials over claims that actions taking place in the county’s library system violate rights in the First and Fourteenth amendments. A complaint, which is the legal document needed to initiate a lawsuit, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, a federal district court, at about 10 a.m. Monday, April 25.

The lawsuit, “Little et al v. Llano County et al,” is a direct result of recent actions taken by Llano County officials within the library system, including the recent removal of books from library shelves, switching the library system’s online reading services from OverDrive to Bibliotheca, the dissolution and creation of the county’s Library Advisory Board, and the March 9 termination of the head librarian of the Kingsland Branch Library

The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of plaintiffs Leila Green Little, Jeanne Puryear, Kathy Kennedy, Rebecca Jones, Richard Day, Cynthia Waring, and Diane Moster, all of whom are Llano County residents and users of the library system. 

The plaintiffs are represented by legal teams from law firms BraunHagey & Borden in California and Wittliff Cutter in Austin.

“More than a gathering space for topical lectures, group meetings, and crafting projects, Llano County’s public libraries provide Plaintiffs and other community members with a quiet and contemplative space to explore the marketplace of ideas and pursue the knowledge contained within the books on library shelves,” the 32-page legal document reads. “Though Plaintiffs differ in their ages, professions, and individual religious and political beliefs, they are fiercely united in their love for reading public library books and in their belief that the government cannot dictate which books they can and cannot read.” 

Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham, county Commissioners Peter Jones, Linda Raschke, Mike Sandoval, and Jerry Don Moss, and library system Director Amber Milum are individually named as defendants. Newly instated Library Advisory Board members Gay Baskin, Bonnie Wallace, Rochelle Wells, and Rhonda Schnieder are also named as defendants. 

The complaint claims county officials violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights laid out in the First Amendment, which protects freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and the press. 

Some examples outlined in the legal document are the removal of 12 books, including “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings; the suspension of new book acquisitions; and the decision to discontinue use of the online reading service OverDrive, which now operates as Libby. 

The complaint also states that the rights laid out in the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees U.S. citizens the right to due process, are being violated. 

That part of the complaint argues that the aforementioned actions were done secretively and without due process as laid out in the county’s adopted policies and guidelines published by the Texas Library Association and other industry experts. It also references the county Library Advisory Board’s recent decision to close meetings to the public

“Bringing legal claims under both the First and Fourteenth amendments allows Plaintiffs to ask the judge not only to order defendants to put banned books back on the shelves and reinstate OverDrive access, but also to mandate certain procedural protections be put in place to ensure that defendants can’t engage in this kind of censorship again in the future,” said Amy Senia, an associate with BraunHagey & Borden.

Evidence provided in the legal document includes direct quotes from emails and other correspondence sent between county officials, advisory board members, and library staff

Now that the initial complaint has been filed, the next step in the legal process will be to serve a copy of the complaint and legal summons to all of the defendants named. 

In addition to the complaint, the plaintiffs’ legal team is also working on filing a motion for preliminary injunction, which is a pre-trial court order that would require the county to immediately roll back restrictions in question, such as bringing new books into the library system and putting the previously removed books back on the shelves. 

The document can be accessed online at the PacerMonitor website. A membership is needed to access the website. 

brigid@thepicayune.com

13 thoughts on “Llano County faces federal lawsuit over censorship in library system

  1. And one of those books removed was “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti – can anyone explain how that can be considered pornographic? Now, given the unacknowledged and whispered history of the Klan in the Hill country, it’s possible that some people took personal offense at documentation of an ugly past – banning the book seems less about “protecting the children” than it is about suppressing knowledge of past evil.

  2. Is there a difference between limiting access to books by children in the public library versus the public school? From what I’ve seen, both places need more restriction and parental input. Limiting books in a public library to protect children is in no way a ban. Said books are still published and accessible via internet and stores as far as I know. Maybe once parents consider access by children to these books, they will join the position of limitation and supervision of the choices. I also didn’t know there is a public process in determining which books are available in the library. Seems someone more qualified in children’s education would be making those choices instead of the public.

  3. I guess those of you who support this also believe we should have porn movies for the children to watch. Go have a look at some of these books that were removed. They are pornographic period. As for the Bible I have never seen any pornographic drawings in any of my Bibles. I do know that MEN have created rather pornographic renderings called Art by other men.
    I would also like to know why my earlier comment was removed? Cant handle the truth Trib?

    1. Your opinion of what is pornography and mine are waaay different and exactly why public venues in the community that children have access to need to have strong guidelines. This is not censorship or book bans, it’s about protecting children in one specific public place where safety is presumed.

  4. Ah so the issue is degeneracy being banned, lest a child or someone impressionable getting ahold of it happens and causes corruption and confusion.

    Cry degenerates.

  5. The issue of what materials are appropriate for children to read, watch, or hear in Llano County or any other place should be made by the citizens that reside there, not lawyers from Austin or California. All over Texas, especially in small towns, people are moving to not because they like it; but because they want to change it. If the people who call Llano County home want it to remain a safe place to live, work, and raise a family in, you need to wake up and do something about it. Or in a very short time you can sit around and tell each other what a great place Llano once was. It is your choice. You may print my full name .

  6. I object to pornography and like materials being available in public libraries. I object to children having access in a public library to sexually explicit material. This is not a matter of freedom since these items can be freely accessed elsewhere, but they should not be a part of public property and should not be available for children. The library should take the appropriate approved measures to remove this material.

    1. Since you object to materials that have sexually explicit material, of course, you would agree that The Bible should be removed from public libraries.

      1. David, Your definition of pornography is way different than mine which is why guidelines are needed for public venues with access by children.

  7. I fully agree with this suit. Nothing good ever comes from secret meetings that should be open to the public.

  8. I’m sure glad the do good Liberals names are published, that way the GOOD people of Llano know who and what they are up against….

    God Bless Llano

    1. You are evidently part of the problem. Banning books isn’t a step in the right direction for society.

    2. I don’t think you have to be a Liberal to believe in the constitution. EVERYONE has the right to freely read whatever they want. No one has the right to censor what other’s read. I’m a Christian but I don’t believe in censorship. I believe in managing my own family and what my children read. I don’t have the right to manage what my neighbors children or the community’s children read.

      GOD bless Llano

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