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Fifth Circuit Panel Reinstates Injunction Blocking Texas From Enforcing School Library Book Ratings Law

Thumbnail of first page of the Fifth Circuit decision - to click for the full decision
Click the image above to read/download the Fifth Circuit’s ruling (pdf).

Texas, for now, can’t enforce the part of a controversial new law that calls for books being sold to school libraries to have ratings in a process overseen by the education commissioner, a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled today.

The three-member Fifth Circuit panel reinstated an injunction that a federal judge had earlier imposed (article) against Education Commissioner Mike Morath preventing him (and thus the state) from enforcing the school library ratings portion of the HB900/regular session Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act.

  • Note: The trial judge’s injunction, in turn, was lifted (article) by a Fifth Circuit panel in September pending the outcome of the appeal by the state in the lawsuit collectively filed by two Texas bookstores, three national trade associations (representing booksellers, book publishers, and book authors) and a legal-defense organization.

    This latest ruling by a Fifth Circuit panel follows oral arguments that were held in November.

Although the trial judge had issued preliminary injunctions — pending the outcome of a future trial — against the commissioner and the respective chairs of the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), this latest ruling dismisses the chairs as defendants and leaves only the education commissioner as the sole defendant.

The justices concluded that the injunction against Morath met the legal requirements because the plaintiffs (specifically the booksellers) established that:1) they are likely to succeed on the merits, 2) they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief and 3) an injunction is in the public interest.

The ruling prevents the state from implementing only the library book ratings portion of the READER Act (pending the outcome of further proceedings).

Left Undistrubed
Left undistrubed is the portion of the READER Act that led to the TSLAC adopting, in consultation with the SBOE, the requirement that local school districts adopt policies on acquiring and challenging library books that adhere to TSLAC’s “collection development standards” (article/adopted standards). The plaintiffs did not specifically challenge this portion of the act.

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