A federal judge in Austin has given the green light to a lawsuit challenging statutes that prohibit journalists from using drones for news photography, while allowing other professions to use drone photography under the same circumstances. A group of plaintiffs including the National Press Photographers Association, the Texas Press Association, and photojournalist Joe Pappalardo filed suit against Texas government officials to set aside the statutes as violating their First Amendment rights to gather and publish newsworthy material. The government officials sought dismissal of the suit, which was denied by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman. The judge observed that the plaintiffs have “plausibly alleged” that the statutes “violate the First Amendment” and are unconstitutionally broad and vague.
The plaintiffs are represented by Graves Dougherty shareholder Jim Hemphill, along with lawyers from Public Justice and lawyers and law students from Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA).