Texas Veterinary Speech Oral Argument
- For 10 years, Dr. Ron Hines, a retired and physically disabled Texas-licensed veterinarian, used the internet to give advice to pet owners across the country and around the globe, often for free. He didn’t realize that it is illegal in Texas to give veterinary advice about an animal without first physically examining the animal. When the state veterinary board found out what Ron was doing, it shut him down, suspended his license, and fined him—even though no one ever complained about Ron’s advice.
- With IJ’s help, Ron fought back with a federal lawsuit. We argued that the First Amendment protects individualized advice, such as veterinary advice, and that states cannot burden that advice without a compelling reason. And there is no such reason in Ron’s case. Unfortunately, in 2015, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Texas, finding that Ron’s advice was not protected speech.
- Fast forward to 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment indeed protects “occupational speech.” Because this new Supreme Court decision overrode Ron’s 2015 appellate loss, we filed our lawsuit again, arguing that First Amendment jurisprudence had changed. In December 2020, the Fifth Circuit agreed, holding that its earlier decision in Ron’s case was no longer good law and unanimously reversing a lower court ruling against Ron. That lower court then ruled that Ron’s advice is entitled to the highest degree of First Amendment protection. Unfortunately, the same court later reversed itself, concluding that Ron’s advice deserved a lesser degree of protection and that the veterinary board’s restrictions passed muster. As of August 15, 2023, we are planning another appeal.
Listen to the Argument
about the case
Ron Hines is a veterinarian who offers advice online to customers all over the country, but Texas said his speech was illegal. Now his case can move ahead on First Amendment grounds.