‘Improper photography’ in Texas — oral argument in Ex parte Thompson, before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

I had the great pleasure and honor of arguing in Ex parte Thompson yesterday morning in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, representing the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (as a friend of the court), through the UCLA First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic — defense counsel agreed to split his time with me, and the court granted our motion for leave to do so.

The issue was the constitutionality of the Texas “improper photography” statute, which bans, in relevant part, photographing or otherwise recording “a visual image of another” “without the other person’s consent” and “with [the] intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire” of the photographer or some other person. The court below said that the statute violated the First Amendment, and the Reporters Committee agreed. (Another Texas appellate court had said the contrary in 2011.) If you’re interested, you can read the state’s brief, defendant’s brief, and our amicus brief. It will be very interesting to see the opinion, which will likely come down in a few months.

I’d also like to thank the many people who made this possible:

  1. Most importantly, our pro bono local counsel, Cam Barker of Yetter Coleman, who provided a great deal of invaluable advice about Texas procedure, as well as helping with filing details.
  2. Defendants’ counsel, Don Flanary of Goldstein Goldstein and Hilley, who agreed to split his time with me.
  3. My Amicus Brief Clinic student, Samantha Booth, who worked on the brief, including by writing the first draft.
  4. Loyola Law School professors Stanley Goldman, Justin Levitt, and Priscilla Ocen, my UCLA School of Law colleagues Stuart Banner, Ingrid Eagly, and Mark Greenberg, and University of Texas School of Law professor Susan Klein and Texas lawyers Ryan Bates and Keith Hampton, all of whom (together with Cam Barker) participated in the moot courts that helped me prepare for the argument.

Sometimes it’s a great deal of fun to be a lawyer, especially with all the help that I’ve been fortunate to receive.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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