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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined 16 other state attorneys general to support rehearing an appeal in the Llano County library lawsuit case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. 

A three-judge panel split 2-1 on June 6 in support of a preliminary injunction issued last year by Judge Robert Pitman in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin. The case of Leila Little et al. v. Llano County et al. has been on hold since the appeal was filed last summer.

The day after judges Jacques Wiener, Leslie Southwick, and Stuart Kyle Duncan, who wrote the dissent, issued their ruling, an unnamed judge asked for an en banc hearing. The court’s mandate is being withheld until a decision can be made on the rehearing request. 

The defendants in the case filed two motions for rehearings: one before the three-judge panel and the other en banc (before the full court). 

On July 1, the plaintiffs filed a response arguing against a rehearing, either before the original three-judge panel or en banc. 

The 20-page amicus brief was submitted by Paxton and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The other states involved include Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. 

“The Court should rehear this case en banc because it raises issues of exceptional importance concerning the First Amendment’s application to library-curation decisions … (that will) leave every public librarian in a state of confusion over whether or when they can be sued for weeding a book,” reads the brief.

The defendants in the case argue the books were removed from library shelves and the Llano County Library system digital catalog in a standard process known as weeding, which rates books based on their physical condition, the number of times they have been checked out, and the length of time since they were last checked out. 

The District Court rejected that argument and determined the books were removed because Llano County government officials did not agree with their content. Head Librarian Amber Milum, who is a defendant in the case, was given a list of 57 books that the defendants claimed were “pornographic filth” and should be removed.  

Only 17 of the books on the longer list were eventually removed, triggering the lawsuit. 

“These books included ‘They Called Themselves the K.K.K: (The Birth of an American Terrorist Group’ by Susan Campbell Bartoletti) and other works that had nothing to do with pornography,” reads the plaintiffs’ response. “ … The panel applied longstanding precedent that government officials cannot remove public library books if their aim is to deny the public access to ideas they personally do not like.”

U.S. District Judge Pitman issued a preliminary injunction ordering the books back on the shelves, which was done. The defendants then filed an appeal. The appeals court heard the case early last summer, issuing a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs 364 days later. That ruling is on hold while the court considers a rehearing. 

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in April 2020 are Leila Green Little, Jeanne Puryear, Kathy Kennedy, Rebecca Jones, Richard Day, Cynthia Waring, and Diane Moster. All are Llano County residents and library system users. 

Defendants in the suit are Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham; county commissioners Peter Jones, Linda Raschke, Mike Sandoval, and Jerry Don Moss; library system Director Amber Milum; and Library Advisory Board members Gay Baskin, Bonnie Wallace, Rochelle Wells, and Rhonda Schnieder.

2 thoughts on “Texas AG supports defendants in Llano County library lawsuit

  1. Librarians do have to “weed out” books or the libraries will have to keep growing and growing and growing…this is management of the library.
    The problem is when the librarian is given a list of books by a government organization and told to “weed” those books.
    That’s censorship.
    In this case a “librarian”, not the head librarian, decided she controlled whether a book was weeded or not, which is the job of the head librarian to decide. The head librarian in this case seems to be allowing the government agency (County Commissioners) to remove books they don’t like based on a premise of “weeding”. That head librarian works for the County so…ugg.
    The politicians should have kept their noses out of library business, the head librarian should have told them no thanks for the list and life should go on. But we can’t do this now can we? What a mess.

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