Nov 29, 2022 - News

Texas county pays thousands for book removal defense

Illustration of a wall of book shelves with gold books aligned in a dollar sign.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Llano County has paid an outside attorney more than $25,000 to represent it in a case in which it's accused of banning books, per information obtained by Axios through an open records request.

Why it matters: The legal fees are a window into how taxpayer dollars are spent to defend a practice that has, to put it lightly, divided the community.

Catch up quick: As we've reported before, a group of citizens in rural Llano County, to the northwest of Austin, are suing county officials over what it describes in legal briefs as a violation of First Amendment rights after county officials stripped books from shelves.

  • Books taken out of circulation included "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent" by Isabel Wilkerson and "In the Night Kitchen," by Maurice Sendak.

Details: The county has paid Jonathan Mitchell $26,360 through mid-November.

  • In June county commissioners budgeted $150,000 in legal fees for the library fight.
  • Mitchell, who did not reply to an Axios interview request, conceived the 2021 Texas law that outlaws abortion after cardiac activity is detected — and empowers private citizens to bring lawsuits against those who violate it.

What we're watching: The plaintiffs are represented by a pro bono firm, but if the case persists through appeals and the county ultimately loses, taxpayers may be on the hook for some hefty legal fees.


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