Book ban lawsuit opinion released

It’s a strong one, not that that will mean anything to the troglodyte nihilists at the Fifth Circuit.

In temporarily blocking enforcement of a new Texas law that limits books with sexual content in school libraries, a federal judge called the law “extraordinarily difficult,” “prohibitively expensive” and a violation of the First Amendment.

District Judge Alan Albright, in an order released late Monday night, granted several book shops a temporary injunction order pausing implementation of House Bill 900, which bans sexually explicit materials from school libraries, requires booksellers to rate their books based on sexual relevance and prohibits school districts from purchasing from vendors who don’t use these ratings.

While supporters of the law have said it would protect children from sexually explicit material in schools, rights groups and school librarians have called HB 900 confusing, and businesses have said it’s overly burdensome and costly.

In his order, Albright raised questions about the law’s effectiveness and clarity.

“For whatever reason, Texas chose not to have anyone employed by the state at any level make the initial evaluation of the sexual content,” Albright wrote in his order. “It chose instead to impose this extraordinarily difficult and prohibitively expensive burden solely on third parties with totally insufficient guidance.”


Almost immediately after Albright handed down his decision, the state issued a notice that it plans to appeal the injunction in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Albright also noted that HB 900 allows the TEA to force businesses to change ratings the state agency disagreed with without any power to appeal.

“Therefore, this Court holds that the State of Texas impermissibly seeks to compel an individual or a corporation to create speech that it does not wish to make, and in addition, in which it does not agree with,” Albright wrote.

The bookstore owners in a statement lauded the judge’s decision.

“We thank the court for its clear and decisive ruling and applaud its finding that this law violates the First Amendment, imposes impossibly onerous conditions on booksellers and ignores the vastly different community standards across local communities,” the owners wrote.

The State Board of Education has begun creating guidelines that businesses and schools would need to abide by as per HB 900. It wasn’t immediately clear from the judge’s order whether that work could continue as the court proceedings move forward.

See here, here, and here for the background. Law Dork delves into the opinion to show just how much this judge – a Trump appointee, by the way – excoriated the state and the defense they put on for this. That said, he concludes by noting that the judge also explained how a less-incompetent version of the law could have passed muster with him, so even if the plaintiffs ultimately prevail in court, this saga is likely to continue, at least for as long as book banning is a priority for the Republican majority. You know what you need to do about that.

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6 Responses to Book ban lawsuit opinion released

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I don’t get the semantics of this whole thing. From my limited understanding the books aren’t being “banned” but only not allowed to be in school libraries.

  2. Jason, the usage of “ban” is a bit of a linguistic shortcut. The law requires booksellers to review not just books they are selling now but also ones they sold in the past using criteria devised by the TEA, while also enabling individuals to sue over any rating they disagree with (like SB8 but for books) and giving the TEA the power to overrule whatever the booksellers decided. It’s a mess, and it’s a big part of the judge’s criticism of the law – basically, he singled out the state outsourcing the reviewing of books when they could have done it themselves.

    Anyway, you’re right that “ban” isn’t quite right, but that is the intended effect of the law, and it’s hard to sum it all up in succinct fashion. So “ban” is close enough for those purposes.

  3. C.L. says:

    I dunno, Kuff. Words have meanings, and when you (or anyone else) says the word ‘ban/banned’, I’d expect the subject of that sentence to be ‘officially or legally prohibited’…not just NOT showing up in a school library. Subtleties… Kind of like saying all HISD libraries are ‘closed’, when in fact just a relatively smal number of them no longer have librarians staffing them.

  4. CL, the purpose of the law was to get the booksellers to self-censor, which is just a ban by somewhat indirect methods. “Ban” is an accurate description of the law’s goal. It’s just that the mechanism was convoluted and hard to explain.

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