Remember the “boycott Israel” case?

The 5th Circuit has declared the lawsuit that challenged the Texas law that requires certain contractors to promise not to boycott Israel moot. Thus it has been dismissed. 

Let me refresh your memory about this interesting legal squabble.  It began in 2017 when the Texas legislature enacted a law that required every company that contracts with any governmental entity, such as a school district, to contractually promise not to boycott Israel during the term of the contract. School districts were required to make sure that their contracts with outside service providers included this provision.

The law was part of the pushback against the “BDS” movement which sought to pressure governments and private companies to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel over its treatment of its Palestinian citizens. It’s a national movement, as is the pushback against it.  Many states have adopted laws similar to the one in Texas.

A speech therapist who contracted with Pflugerville ISD refused to sign the contract that included the “no boycott” clause.  The district terminated the contract. She sued, claiming that the contractual provision infringed on her First Amendment rights to engage in a non-violent boycott based on her political views. 

She was successful. The federal district court agreed that the provision was unconstitutional and issued a statewide injunction against its enforcement.  Pflugerville did not oppose the injunction, but there were other plaintiffs and defendants in the case, and those defendants opposed the injunction and appealed it to the 5th Circuit.

Then along came the 2019 legislative session and a revision of the law.  The 2019 version limited the application of the law to companies with more than 10 full time employees and a value in excess of $100,000.  The speech therapist in Pflugerville, along with her fellow plaintiffs, were all sole proprietors. They were no longer required to comply with the law.  So the case was moot.

It would have been interesting to see how the Circuit Court would have ruled on the substantive issue presented here, but it’s a fundamental rule of our federal courts that they do not rule on issues unless there is a real live controversy.  Since the plaintiffs were no longer required to comply with the “no boycott” provision, they no longer had a personal stake in the outcome. 

Moot. Despite 14 amicus briefs being filed.  The case is Amawi v. Pflugerville ISD decided by the  Circuit on April 27, 2020.


Tomorrow: Is your board thinking about censuring one of its members?  Might want to think twice.