IJ Wins Initial Fight for Texas Citizen Journalist

September 25, 2023

IJ won a first-round victory in a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit brought by Justin Pulliam, a citizen journalist who reports on the activities of law enforcement.

Not happy to be the object of Justin’s reporting, Fort Bend County, Texas, officials repeatedly tried to shield themselves from Justin’s scrutiny. In 2021, the sheriff directed officers to remove Justin from a press conference in a public park, claiming that he was “not media.” A few months later, as he was filming a police encounter with a mentally ill man, Justin was arrested and prosecuted for “interfering with public duties”—even though he was far from the active scene and had permission from the property owner to record the welfare check on her property.

Like many Liberty & Law readers, Justin believes that local government can often have the greatest direct impact on our daily lives and that our freedom depends on its transparency. So he partnered with IJ to vindicate his constitutional right to report on government activity without fear of retaliation.

And this summer, a federal district court rejected Fort Bend County’s attempt to dismiss Justin’s First Amendment claims. That ruling makes it harder for the government to silence reporters it doesn’t like.

Justin will now have the opportunity to hold Fort Bend County, its sheriff, and its officers accountable for violating his First Amendment rights to record officials and to be treated the same as established media. IJ has already started to take advantage of that opportunity, deposing the sheriff and several of his officers with an eye toward trial.

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