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AG Opinions

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Index of TOMA

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Cases on the Texas Open Meetings Act
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

Texas courts have had many occasions to write on the Texas Open Meetings Act. The Act itself provides that interested persons can resort to the courts to enforce its provisions. Also, violations of the act by governmental officials can result in criminal charges against them.

Unfortunately, I know of no site on the web that offers a comprehensive set of the full text of decisions of the courts of this state. That means you must go to the law library in your town to read the actual decisions, or subscribe to the fee-based systems that put the cases on the Web.

Most courthouses in Texas have law libraries with the state cases. In Texas the state cases are collected in a set of books called South West Reporter. There are hundreds of volumes of South Western Reporter collection. When you see a legal cite the case name is give, followed by the volume and page number within the South Western Reporter system. The first three hundred books in the series are cited as, for example, 299 S.W. 123. After the first three hundred volumes the books began the second series of reports, South Western Second. Those volumes are cited as 222 S.W.2d 123. We are now into the third series of reports. Books in the third series are cited as 55 S.W.3d 123. Be sure you note whether a cite is to South Western, South Western Second or South Western Third when you are hunting for a particular case. Otherwise, you may get the wrong case.

After the name of the case and the volume/edition/page information you will find an abbreviation for the court issuing the opinion. If you see just "Tex." that means the decision is from the Texas Supreme Court, the highest appellate court in Texas. If you see "Tex. Civ. App." or Tex. App." that means the case is from a court of appeals. Courts of Appeals are the courts that hear appeals from trial court decisions. Most decisions are from Courts of Appeals. The Supreme Court of Texas has the power to review decisions of Courts of Appeals.

The next information in a cite is the date of the decision. That date is less valuable than you might think. For example, a Texas Supreme Court decision in 2002 could easily be about an incident that occurred in 1996--or earlier. What the law of the case was in 1996 may no longer be the law today. A careful reading of cases for this issue is always important.

The last information you will find on decisions of the Court of Appeals is called the subsequent history of the case. It gives a hint of what happened, if anything, when the loser at the court of appeals level tried to interest the Texas Supreme Court in hearing the case. If the cite says "no writ" or it means no appeal was made. There are twelve notations used by lawyers to give the subsequent history of a case. The nuances of meaning of these twelve notations are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, if a decision of the court of appeals has been overrule by the Texas Supreme Court, the citation should so indicate.

Below, in alphabetical order, are many of the cases discussing the Texas Open Meetings Act. The comment gives a very short summary of the subject of the case. To read my analysis of the significance of the case, click on the name of the case.

Acker v. Texas Water Com'n, 790 S.W.2d 299 (Tex. 1990).
This famous case discusses whether two members of the water commission engage in an illegal meeting if they discuss commission business while standing side-by-side at the urinals in the men's room during a break.

Rivera v. City of Laredo, 948 S.W.2d 787 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1997, denied).
This case decides that the limitations period for TOMA cases is four years; that the class of "interested persons" eligible to bring TOMA cases is broad; that recesses of noticed meetings must also be noticed if the recess is for more that the next day; and that actions taken at illegally noticed meetings are null and void.

Last Revised 2/15/03

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