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Major publishing houses support plaintiffs in Llano library suit appeal

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

The Association of American Publishers, seven major publishing houses, and three library-related associations added their official support for plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit against Llano County officials related to the removal of books from the county’s library system. 

The organizations were given leave on Monday, June 5, to file an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans during an appeal process in Little et al. v. Llano County et al., which was filed in April 2022.

Friend of the court briefs are filed by people or groups who are not a party to an action but have an interest in the matter and are concerned about the broader implications of a court ruling. Joining AAP in the amicus brief are Candlewick Press Inc., Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, MacMillan Publishing Group LLC, Penguin Random House LLC, Scholastic Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc. 

A Statement of Interest of Amici Curiae was also filed by the Freedom to Read Foundation, the American Library Association, and the Texas Library Association. The TLA honored the plaintiffs with its Sam G. Whitten Intellectual Freedom Award during its annual convention on April 22. 

“Publishers cannot fulfill their mission of connecting authors’ books with readers if the only speech allowed is that which aligns with the views of government authorities,” reads the first page of the Statement of Interest in the brief. “In a democracy, the government can contest ideas, but it cannot ban them. State censorship — no matter the political cause behind it — quells free thinking. “

A panel of judges in the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments in the appeal on Wednesday, June 7. The defendants in the case, which include members of the Llano County Commissioners Court and the county’s Library Advisory Board as well as the library director, filed the appeal on March 30, the same day U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the county to return 17 books taken out of library circulation. The books were back on library shelves and in the digital catalog within 24 hours of the order. 

A jury trial in the case, which was filed by seven patrons of the Llano County Library System, is set for Oct. 16, 2023. The plaintiffs claim their first and 14th amendment rights were violated by the defendants when the 17 books were removed from circulation because of their content. 

The amici agree.

“The banned books include some of the most honored and important recent works of nonfiction and fiction,” reads the Argument in the brief. “In evaluating these competing accounts, this Court should consider the Banned Books themselves, as well as their many honors and awards. Doing so leaves no room for any serious claim that the Banned Books were targeted for any reason other than the views and themes expressed in them.”

Many of the books in question feature LGBTQ+ characters; one was a history of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Others were children’s books with “butt” and “fart” in the titles.

Little v. Llano County, which is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, is on hold until a decision is handed down by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case will be heard in the En Banc Courtroom in the John Minor Wisdom Courthouse in Lafayette Square in New Orleans beginning at 1 p.m. June 6 by judges Jacques L. Wiener Jr., Leslie H. Southwick, and Stewart Kyle Duncan.

THE BOOKS IN QUESTION

  • “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent” by Isabel Wilkerson 
  • “They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  • “Spinning” by Tillie Walden 
  • “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak 
  • “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health” by Robie Harris
  • “My Butt is So Noisy!,” “I Broke My Butt!,” and “I Need a New Butt!” by Dawn McMillan
  • “Larry the Farting Leprechaun,” “Gary the Goose and His Gas on the Loose,” “Freddie the Farting Snowman,” and “Harvey the Heart Had Too Many Farts” by Jane Bexley
  • “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings
  • “Shine” by Lauren Myracle
  • “Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale” by Selina Kyle
  • “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero
  • “Freakboy” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

suzanne@thepicayune.com