AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants his office to help defend Llano County officials being sued for restricting and banning books from their public library system.
In a court filing Wednesday, Paxton asked Austin-based federal district court Judge Robert Pitman to let the state intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by seven Llano County residents in April.
If Pitman grants the motion, Paxton’s office could aid the county judge, county commissioners and library director in fighting the lawsuit.
In this week’s filing, Paxton notes that the plaintiffs are represented by nine lawyers, six of whom work for San Francisco-based law firm BraunHagey and Borden LLP. On the other hand, the Llano County Attorney’s Office has only two lawyers.
With such a small number of lawyers, Llano County might not have the resources to handle daily legal obligations plus stand against lawyers whom Paxton describes as “oriented toward systemic change rather than the resolution of a single lawsuit,” according to his office’s filing. However, the resources Paxton would bring from the Office of the Attorney General would be sufficient to ensure that the plaintiffs’ claims are “fully and fairly explored and presented” to the court, his office argues.
According to the lawsuit, Llano County officials removed several books from shelves, suspended access to digital library books, replaced the library board members with people who favor book bans, halted new book orders and allowed the board to close its meetings to the public in a coordinated censorship campaign that violates the First and 14th Amendments.
At the time, the plaintiffs said their constitutional rights were violated when public officials censored books based on content and failed to provide proper notice or an avenue for community comment, according to previous reporting by The Texas Tribune.
Attorneys for the residents either could not be reached or were unavailable to comment. Paxton’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Books removed from the library include Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen,” Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” and Jazz Jennings’ “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen.”
Since last year, Texas Republican officials and grassroots conservatives have waged a battle against what they portray as indoctrination and obscenity in school and public libraries. Last fall, one state lawmaker compiled a list of some 850 books about race and sexuality that he sent to school districts, asking how many are available on their campuses.
This came after the Texas Legislature passed a law limiting how race, slavery and current events are taught in schools. They dubbed it the “critical race theory” bill, even though the legislation never mentioned the term. Critical race theory is a university-level concept that examines how racism shapes laws and policies. Public education experts, along with school administrators and teachers, say the theory is not taught in public schools.
Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have made parental rights a priority as they both seek reelection in November. Patrick has also vowed to push for a “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Texas, mirroring Florida’s conservative push to limit classroom discussions about LGBTQ people.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.