Monday, April 04, 2016

Qualified Immunity For Commissioners Asking Religious Questions To Constable Candidate

In Lloyd v. Birkman, (WD TX, April 1, 2016), a Texas federal district court held that members of the Williamson County (Texas) Commissioners' Court enjoyed qualified immunity in a suit by an unsuccessful candidate for County Constable.  The position was normally an elected one, but the current Constable resigned and the next election was over one year away. Thus under state law the Commissioners had the power to appoint a new Constable to serve until the next general election.  During interviews for the position, Commissioners asked candidates about their church membership, views on gay marriage and abortion, and political ideology. Plaintiff contended that these questions violated his rights of free expression and association, as well as the free exercise and establishment clauses. The court, however, concluded that there was not "clearly established law" that this line of questioning was improper in the context of private interviews for an interim appointment to a normally elective position. (See prior related posting.)