AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton is applauding the First Court of Appeals for finding Waller County lacks jurisdiction to sue a private citizen who complained that the county was unlawfully banning firearms from its government building.
The attorney general’s office had filed a brief in the case against Terry Holcomb Sr., arguing that it should be dismissed.
On March 15, justices held that Holcomb, the executive director of Texas Carry, had a constitutional right to send a letter to Waller County asking it to comply with Texas’ open carry laws without fear of a retaliatory and meritless lawsuit.
“The Attorney General alone has the authority to investigate an alleged violation and decide if it merits further action,” the opinion stated.
When Waller County issued a ban on licensed gun carriers from bringing firearms into the courthouse, Holcomb complained.
Holcomb's complaint maintained the gun ban should extend to individual courtrooms, not the entire Waller County Courthouse.
When the county responded by suing him, Holcomb made a complaint to Paxton’s office, prompting the attorney general to file a lawsuit of his own against Waller County in August 2016 to bring the county into compliance with the state’s licensed carry laws.
“This is a great day for the First Amendment and the right of citizens to participate in government,” Paxton said. “Waller County should be embarrassed and ashamed of using litigation as a tool to silence someone who merely called on it to stop violating a state law.”
The lawsuit seeks to require the county to allow citizens to lawfully carry firearms in areas of the Waller County government building that contain non-judicial county administrative offices.
Justices remanded the county’s suit back to the district court with instructions to dismiss it for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction after holding further proceedings for the limited purpose of awarding Holcomb his court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and other expenses incurred in defending against the action.
Cause No. 16-07-23803