Butts, Farts and T-Shirts: Two New First Amendment Cases – Part 1 (books)

In the last ten days, two courts of appeals have issued extremely interesting First Amendment cases involving age-old situations –removing books from a library and banning t-shirts in public schools –that, for whatever reasons, haven’t been addressed by the circuit courts in a while.  I’ll talk about the book removal case in Part 1, while Part 2 (later this week!) will talk about t-shirts.

In Little v. Llano County, --- F.4th ---- (5th Cir. 2024), the Fifth Circuit ruled that a public county library violated the First Amendment by removing seventeen (17) specific books, which addressed themes of sexuality and homosexuality; gender identity and dysphoria; and racism – and then a group of seven books that the parties and judges all referred to as “butt and fart” books, as typified by Larry the Farting Leprechaun.

The appeal generated three separate opinions by…

Litigation Update: READER Act on hold…..

by Chris Gilbert, Thompson & Horton LLP

Litigation Update:  this week a federal judge in Austin has indicated to the parties in Book People, Inc. v. Wong (Western District of Texas) that he intends to enjoin application of the READER Act.  Passed by the recent Texas Legislature as House Bill 900, the READER Act places affirmative duties on any vendor that sells reading materials to public schools to "rate" books as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant.”  Schools may not purchase "sexually explicit" materials (which are defined as materials depicting or describing “sexual conduct” that is “patently offensive”), and may not check out "sexually relevant" materials to students without parent permission.  Vendors must “recall” previously sold “sexually explicit” materials.  A school district cannot buy from vendors who have not issued ratings for “sexually explicit” material.  Schools must review "sexually relevant" materials every two years, and publish a report of “sexually relevant”…