Llano library lawsuit stayed while before court of appeals
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary administrative stay of all district court proceedings, including any pending discovery, on Tuesday, May 16, in the Llano County Library System civil lawsuit. The court will hear arguments in Little et al. v. Llano County et al. on June 7 in New Orleans, where the appeals court presides.
The appeal was filed by the defendants on March 30 to challenge a temporary injunction ordered that same day by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. Judge Pitman ordered Llano County to return 17 removed books to library circulation within 24 hours. The books were back on library shelves and in the county system’s digital catalog on March 31.
The initial lawsuit was filed in April 2022 by seven library patrons against the Llano County Commissioners Court, the library system director, and select members of the Llano County Library Advisory Board after the books were removed from circulation. The plaintiffs argued in a preliminary hearing in October that the books were removed because of the defendants’ political beliefs, which is a violation of the First and 14th Amendments. A jury trial has been set for Oct. 16 in Austin.
In a 55-page Appellant’s Opening Brief filed Thursday, May 18, defense attorney Jonathan Mitchell of Mitchell Law LLP in Austin argued that the plaintiffs “failed to make a ‘clear showing’ of ‘irreparable harm’ when each of the 17 disputed books remains available for them to read and check out at the Llano Library.”
Mitchell is referring to an in-house checkout system set up previous to the injunction. The 17 books were purchased by an “anonymous” donor, who turned out to be Mitchell, and kept behind the Llano County Library counter. If patrons knew the books were behind the counter, they could ask to check them out. They were not included in the library’s digital catalog or at either of the other two county libraries in Kingsland and Buchanan Dam. The Llano library did not advertise that the books were available.
Mitchell also argued that the plaintiffs failed to make a “clear showing that the in-house system violates their First Amendment right to access and receive information.”
“The preliminary injunction should be vacated,” he wrote in conclusion.
The deadline to file briefs is Friday, May 19.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Katherine P. Chiarello of Botkin Chiarello Calaf PLLC will appear before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of appellees Leila Green Little, Jeanne Puryear, Kathy Kennedy, Rebecca Jones, Richard Day, Cynthia Waring, and Diane Moster.
Defendants, or appellants in this case, are Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham; commissioners Jerry Don Moss, Linda Raschke, Mike Sandoval, and Peter Jones; advisory board members Gay Baskin, Rhonda Schneider, and Rochelle Wells; and Library Director Amber Milum.