The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in a 9-7 decision that law enforcement officers in Laredo, Texas, who arrested citizen-journalist Priscilla Villarreal in 2017, cannot be sued for violating her First Amendment rights.
Jackson Walker partner Paul C. Watler shared insight with The Texas Lawbook on the decision, noting, “The Villarreal opinion may turn into a choke point hindering the free flow of information to the public in Texas. It closes off for journalists commonly accepted means of obtaining information of vital public concern and opens reporters up to the possibility of official retaliation for merely doing their job.”
Priscilla Villarreal, known as “La Gordiloca,” was arrested for seeking nonpublic information from a police officer, with the officers claiming they were following a Texas law, even though the law had been declared unconstitutional. Villarreal filed a lawsuit for violating her constitutional rights, alleging wrongful arrest and selective enforcement.
To read the full article from The Texas Lawbook, see “Fifth Circuit: Police Immune for Arresting Journalist Just for Asking Questions”.
Paul C. Watler is a board-certified civil trial lawyer who is widely recognized for First Amendment, media law, “Bet-the-Company” cases, and commercial litigation. He has successfully represented numerous newspapers, television stations, media companies, websites, and journalists in libel, anti-SLAPP (Texas Citizens Participation Act), public information, invasion of privacy, copyright, news gathering, and commercial lawsuits.
Throughout his career, Paul has held leadership positions on the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Board, the Dallas Bar Association Media Relations Committee, The University of Texas at Austin-Moody College of Communication Advisory Council, and the North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA) Board.