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Councilwoman sues officials who jailed her for petition drive

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A federal judge allowed a case to proceed brought by a councilwoman in Castle Hills, Texas, who contends city officials arrested and jailed her on a false charge in retaliation for her petition to remove the city manager.

Judge David Alan Ezra rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the case brought by Sylvia Gonzalez alleging First Amendment retaliation by the city’s police chief, mayor, a detective and the city, the Institute for Justice said.

The city claimed it and its officials are protected by qualified immunity.

“I’m incredibly grateful to be able to proceed with my case,” said Gonzalez in a statement released by her counsel, the Institute for Justice. “I’m glad that after all I’ve been through the truth will prevail.”

IJ said the decision “marks an early and important victory in the fight to vindicate Sylvia’s constitutional rights.”

“Too often, government officials argue that a legal doctrine known as ‘qualified immunity’ shields them from being held responsible for violating individual rights. Soon after Sylvia filed her lawsuit, the government defendants claimed immunity and argued that the case should be thrown out. Judge Ezra disagreed and ruled for Sylvia. Now, Sylvia and IJ can proceed and are looking forward to their day in court.”

The case began in May 2019 when Gonzalez sought a city council seat. As part of her campaign, she helped set up a non-binding petition calling on the council to remove the city manager.

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