Appeals court expedites TOMA case appeal

A state appeals court has accelerated its review of a district court judge's ruling that resulted in the dismissal of charges against two Montgomery County elected officials and a political consultant, the Conroe Courier reported.
In April, state District Judge Randy Clapp of Wharton County ruled that a section of the Texas Open Meetings Act is unconstitutional because it is vague, overly broad and violates free speech. With his ruling, Clapp, who was acting as visiting judge in Montgomery County, dismissed charges of conspiring to circumvent the act against County Judge Craig Doyal, County Commissioner Charlie Riley and political consultant Marc Davenport.
The indictments stemmed from communications in August 2015 regarding a $280 million road bond to be placed on the November 2015 ballot. Voters overwhelmingly approved the bond package.
"In an accelerated appeal, (the court is) putting everyone on notice, 'Look, we are speeding everything up," special prosecutor Chris Downey told the Courier. "In other words, 'Get cracking now.'"
Houston-based attorney Rusty Hardin, who is representing Doyal, told the Courier that he welcomed the decision of the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont.
Downey said the state will have about 30 days to file its brief regarding the appeal. The defense then will have the same time frame to file its briefs. After that, Downey expects the court to determine whether it will hear oral arguments in the case.
If the appeals court rules against Clapp, the indictments of the three would be reinstated and the case would go back into trial status, Downey has said. However, if the appeals court upholds Clapp's decision, the issue involving the statute then would go to the Criminal Court of Appeals in Austin, followed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and ultimately could wind up in front of the U.S Supreme Court.
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