Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lawsuit Attacking Plano's Nondiscrimination Ordinance is Probably DOA - UPDATED

Plano Texas “Skyline”
Greg Hatch and Laura Hatch do not state how they have been harmed by Plano, Texas' comprehensive nondiscrimination law. However, the Hatches have sued the city. They are asking a court to invalidate the law on the basis of noncompliance with the Texas Open Meeting Act. The Hatches are represented by Cleve Doty (see update, below) who is a sole general practitioner in Plano. Doty has been practicing law in Texas for about seven years. He has not represented anyone in federal court in his district and states no specialty.

The Hatches complain (after more than twio years) that the Plano nondiscrimination ordinance was deliberated in secret and prior to public input. From the rather awkwardly worded and overly verbose complaint it seems apparent that the city gave advance notice that they would meet in executive session and provided records of the meeting thereafter.

More than two years is important. The norm in Texas for civil litigation is a two-year statute of limitations. There are limited exceptions but they might very well be time-barred.

Executive session is perfectly acceptable if the city council was consulting with its lawyers. The Hatches complain that the decision was pre-determined in executive session based on the fact that the city manager was aware of where each council member stood. The wording of the complaint makes it sound like some sort of grand conspiracy.
5. After violating the Act, City leaders separately confirmed, in writing, that they had violated the Act. City Manager Bruce Glasscock, for instance, repeatedly confirmed to third parties that Council had already deliberated and decided upon the matter, that he was aware where every single council member stood on the Ordinance.
Yes, they would have confirmed, in writing, an executive session. Attorney Doty is muddling the issues. Knowing where each member stands and having deliberated the matter are different things. After a meeting with counsel it would be surprising if they did not arrive at an understanding and knowledge of individual positions.

There was an open meeting at a later date and 57 people, mostly opponents, gave testimony. Opponents send more than 1,600 emails. Even Ken Paxton sent a formal letter to the council opposing the ordinance. The Hatches claim that the fix was in. The reality is that the testimony was unable to convince anyone to change their mind. In fact, it seems quite possible that the anti-LGBT sentiments expressed in that testimony gave cause for the nondiscrimination ordinance.

We are provided with a simpler bullshit detector. Plano, Texas is the home of Kelly Shackelford's Liberty Institute. They have not sued the city on this basis. Regardless of how idiotic and crazy Shackelford's crusade might be they would not have overlooked open meetings compliance. In a December, 2014 letter to the mayor and council members, Liberty Institute's Jeffrey Mateer concludes:
If the Proposed Ordinance is enacted, Liberty Institute will be forced to take legal action against the city to fight such a blatant attack on the religious liberty rights of the residents of the City of Plano.

Update: It seems like lawyer Cleve Doty was on a path to success and then crashed; Yale undergrad, University of Chicago Law. After graduation he clerked for a Texas Supreme Court justice and then worked in the solicitor general's office for a year. Doty then joined the prestigious Texas firm of Baker Botts where he was an associate for two years. People often leave these jobs when they are informed that they are not on a partnership track. Doty went to work for Liberty Institute. Apparently he is no longer there. His Twitter profile: “Freedom fighter, former @JusticeWillett clerk, and most importantly, follower of Christ.”

This could all be yet another waste of taxpayer money to impose conservative Christian belief on public policy. Even in Texas, that it prohibited.

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