Image: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Michelle Slaughter, a strong free speech advocate, wrote the opinion for a unanimous Court which struck down Texas’ bribery prohibition as an unconstitutional restraint on free speech.
Austin, April 1 – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals struck down Section 36.02 of the Texas Penal Code which makes it a second degree felony to bribe a government official. Writing for a unanimous Court, Judge Michelle Slaughter opined, “We have a quirky little principle known as the First Amendment and free political speech. We cannot condone any restriction on freedom of political expression, even if it includes bribery of a public official. We must stand upon the moral foundation which made the United States and Texas so great.”
Thirteen County Commissioners Courts immediately issued resolutions – after emergency meetings – to hail the Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion as finally opening up the State of Texas to free enterprise. Each of the resolutions, carefully drafted by the in-house legal staff of the Texas Association of Counties, proclaims, “Finally, government will be able to get business done thanks to a well-reasoned opinion of Judge Michelle Slaughter and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.”
County government telephone system operators across Texas have reported enormous telephone traffic of incoming calls to County Commissioners and County Judges across the State from engineering firms and general contractors, requesting the personal bank wire information for each of the elected servants, as those firms and contractors wish to express their political beliefs through such financial transfers.
In a rarely enforced statute, Texas had previously prohibited bribery of a government official. A major exception to the anti-bribery statute has been the unlimited political contributions government vendors have provided to governmental officials. Unfortunately, however, there are some limits on for what politicians may use those contributions.
Judge Slaughter concluded her opinion, “By removing this terrible statute, we have finally removed the last remaining fetters upon Texas leaders.”
The Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Municipal League, and the Texas Association of School Boards all issued resolutions supporting the reform. Over one hundred other interest organizations also expressed their relief at this important change in Texas law.
Locally, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who acts as President of the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority, announced, “We’re full speed ahead with plans to build additional tollroads across Montgomery County. These are mighty exciting times!”