Jun 15, 2022 - News

AG Paxton backs local library book removal defense

Illustration of books like dominoes being hit by a gavel.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The state of Texas is siding with officials in a rural county outside Austin who pulled books they deemed inappropriate from the children's section of its libraries.

Driving the news: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined the Llano County case, which involves issues of censorship and parental controls — with a heavy dollop of politics in the background.

Why it matters: Practically speaking, Paxton's involvement suddenly deepens the resources available to the defense.

  • "Llano County simply may not have the resources to both handle the day-to-day legal obligations that a local government faces and stand against lawyers oriented toward 'systemic change' rather than the resolution of a single lawsuit," Paxton's motion to intervene in the suit says.

Catch up quick: A citizens' group filed a lawsuit in April accusing county officials of violating the First Amendment when they removed books from public libraries.

  • We dedicated an edition of the newsletter in March to the county library fight, which distills the battles over bookshelves nationally.
  • Many of the books targeted in the conservative takeover of Llano's libraries were written by Latino or Black authors or discuss gender matters — "pornographic filth" is how one person who is now a member of the county library advisory board summed up the books, per documents Axios obtained.

Paxton has asked Austin-based U.S. district judge Robert Pitman to dismiss the case by arguing, among other things, that the adult plaintiffs have no standing since the books were in the library's children's section.

The attorney general "should not be spending taxpayer money defending what is clearly the unconstitutional conduct of Llano County," Katherine Chiarello, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Axios. "No Texan wants the government to tell them what they can and cannot read."

  • "Our clients, card-carrying active members of the library, have had their ability to check out books, physically and electronically, removed by acts of Llano County," she said.

Of note: On Monday, Llano County commissioners allocated $150,000 to its legal fight.

What they're saying: At the meeting, county resident Matt Hilton said there was "no price on protecting the county's children."

  • "The fight here is to keep that kind of filth and pornography off our library shelves," he said. "You have my support 100%."

The other side: At the same meeting, Rich Houston, also a Llano County resident, called the way the county handled the books issue "ham-fisted" and "un-American."


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