GDHM helps Texas Civil Rights Project protect First Amendment Rights

On May 21, 2013, GDHM pro bono clients Antonio Diaz and the Texas Indigenous Council received a reversal of a summary judgment dismissal of their First Amendment claims in connection with a peaceful protest in San Antonio, Texas.  The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with GDHM’s argument that the First Amendment claims had been improperly dismissed, reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Matt Baumgartner briefed and argued the case in the Fifth Circuit.  The case came to Graves Dougherty as part of its on-going pro bono partnership with the Texas Civil Rights Project, who will honor Mr. Baumgartner with a Kristi Couvillon Pro Bono Award at its 2013 Bill of Rights Dinner.

The TCRP represented a group of individuals who were conducting a vigil and protest outside a San Antonio hospital, where an immigrant had been brought after having been injured when he was ejected from the Mexican consulate.  Despite their peaceful protest on a wide public sidewalk, the protesters were arrested by the same police officer accused of having injured the immigrant.

The TCRP filed a federal lawsuit alleging a violation of the protesters’ First Amendment rights, but the trial judge granted summary judgment based on a purported pleading defect, and then denied leave to amend.  The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding an abuse of discretion in denying leave to amend, sending the case back to the district court for a ruling on the substantive First Amendment claims and the officers’ qualified immunity defense.