Trial of the 21st Century, The TOMA Trial: Paid defense expert Riggs spars with Special Prosecutor Larsen

Special Prosecutor Joseph Larsen of Dallas.

Conroe, March 30 – Special Prosecutor and Texas Open Meetings Act specialist Joseph Larsen sparred with Austin attorney and paid defendants’ expert Jennifer Riggs this afternoon.

Larsen asked Riggs, “Would you agree that the presumption is always that a statute is constitutional?” Riggs answered, “Yes.”  Riggs then explained that Section 143 of TOMA “was intended to prohibit the meeting in numbers less than a quorum in order to get to a quorum and that’s not what 143 says, you see.”

Riggs disagreed with then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s formal opinion in which is interpreted Section 143 of TOMA as a reasonable statute. Riggs then criticized another formal opinion of former Attorney General John Cornyn, JC-307. Riggs said that underlying facts of each case would determine whether a TOMA section 143 violation occurred.
If one can apply a statute to facts as easily as Riggs seemed able to do, then one must question how the statute could be unconstitutionally vague?!
 Riggs also expressed her “problem extending the language of 143 to third parties,” in other words to people who are not “members of a governmental body.” The Golden Hammer agrees with her on that point. Riggs correctly stated, “The open meetings act does not govern the public’s right to speak… it only governs the members… it is a ban on certain communication and that ban limits more conduct than it needs to prohibit a daisy chain.”
The attorneys sparred about everything from proper policy decisions, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United involving the right of corporations to give money to the candidates of their choice, and the fear of public officeholders of criminal prosecutions.
As for the “fear” which Oak Ridge North Mayor Jim Kuykendall and the criminal defense attorneys all expressed, isn’t that precisely why TOMA protects the citizens? TOMA effectuates the wise proverb of Judge Wayne Mack, “People should not fear the government; government should fear the people.”

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