EDIT March 6, 2023. - Today our office filed the First Amended Petition for Writ of Mandamus, following the Court's instruction to reduce the size of our petition. We also reduced the number of declarations attached to stay away from size issues. (The link is now to the file-marked full petition.)
There's been some discussion about how this all works, so I'll answer this that question so folks know.
There are rules to filing documents with all courts, including size limits, typeface limits, pagination rules...all sorts of rules that we have to follow.
It is common to request leave to file larger documents than 4500 words, which is the usual limit for an original filing with an appellate court, including the Supremes. A review of my own files indicate that I've asked the appellate courts (including the Supreme Court) for permission to file bigger-than-normal files a number of times, e.g., in Case 13-21-00017-CV, where my office has sued the TABC regarding its irrational rules about bars during COVID, and we filed the brief along with a motion for leave to exceed the usual rules, and the court granted the request.
In the present case, the Supreme Court looked at it for a few days and denied the request, sending the message that it believes that there is no reason to include narrative details and exceed the word limit. The Court then ordered that we revise the petition and refile no later than March 6. So we sharpened our collective pencil and shortened the pleading.
So this is normal operating procedure, and anyone telling you different is either not an attorney, or an attorney who is deceiving you or ignorant of how the system works.
After months of attempting reconciliation, Montgomery County Precinct Chairs have had enough, and today filed their Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the Supreme Court of Texas. (The linked file is now the actual file that made it through the acceptance process. Now we wait for a decision by the Court.)
Generally, a writ of mandamus is a request for a court to tell a person who works in government to do his job. However, Texas law also allows writs of mandamus to be filed against those who are violating the Texas Election Code. See Tex. Elec. Code 161.009 (which says party officers are subject to mandamus).
Texas law requires party chairs, like Bryan Christ, to keep an updated list of precinct chairs and vacancies updated with the Texas Secretary of State. See Tex. Elec. Code 171.024(e) (because those documents are posted and kept available for candidates, vendors, and others who have an interest, as they generally are the most active people in elections).
Chairman Bryan Christ is not alone – he has a minority slice of precinct chairs of Montgomery County who support him. But he believes that he can operate the Montgomery County Executive Committee like a private fiefdom and ignore two-thirds or more of the precinct chairs in the county who may not align exactly with his approach.
Bryan Christ presided over a three-hour Organizational Meeting on July 19, 2022 which literally organized nothing, mostly because he was determined not to allow a perfectly good substituted agenda.
When when 39 precinct chairs signed a petition to have another meeting, his allies quickly scraped together a second petition, which Bryan used as an excuse not to call the meeting that had been called first…and then called nothing at all, though 55 precinct chairs had come to the meeting. Robert’s Rules allow those who called the meeting to elect a person to preside over that specific meeting, so they did. Then the body filled precinct chair vacancies, elected officers, and adopted bylaws, while he just left the meeting. And because those results were not what he wanted, Bryan has just pretended that meeting was invalid, in spite of his own statements that the call of the meeting was valid, it had more people present than any meeting he has called in the last year, and the minutes are more complete than any of meetings that have been posted on the Christ website.
This story goes on and on for months, and included a Zoom meeting that lasted more than three hours and literally accomplished nothing. I've seen a lot of bad county executive committee meetings across this state, but I've never seen this level of dysfunction. A county chair should be able to navigate strong personalities without going mentally fetal.
Even the State Republican Executive Committee got involved in what turned into a useless mediation attempt, as Bryan refused to mediate in good faith.
Even when the majority Precinct Group set a meeting in December and asked Bryan to preside, he couldn’t compromise, and told the body that it was “at ease” (a parliamentary action that is reasonable when no one objects and lasting only a few minutes), which led to a second meeting where the elected chair chose not to lead, and which wound up requiring an alternative presiding officer.
In the last few months, Bryan has endorsed one of his minion’s efforts to hold “ethics committee” inquisitional meetings, in which one of his lieutenants would send an email to a Bryan-dissenter and threaten the precinct chair with loss of office if he doesn't show up and explain himself. This is the behavior of a small group of people who want control more than party and activist growth.
Enough. The majority Precinct Chair Group is asking the Supreme Court to tell Bryan Christ to do the job that the Republicans in Montgomery County elected him to do, which includes reporting the properly elected precinct chairs to the Secretary of State, and not interfere with the properly elected treasurer as he files required financial reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.
I have been asked, so I will tell you – the Texas Supreme Court is busy, and it does not always do things that it would even like to do. The Court may take this up, or it may tell us to go to district court. We have argued that there are no disputed facts in this case, as we have videos of every relevant meeting. There are disputed conclusions based on those facts, but that’s the job of the courts. Anyone that tells you that the Supreme Court doesn't get involved in these things just doesn't know the law. For example, in In re Sanchez, 366 S.W.3d 255 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2012, no pet.), the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio told a party chair to remove a person from a ballot. And in Painter v. Shaner, 667 S.W.2d 123 (Tex. 1984), the Supreme Court told a party chair to add a candidate for sheriff when the party was playing games with the primary process. I cannot predict what today's Texas Supreme Court will do, but we have given it valid reasons for acting.
I am hopeful that this Court will see that election integrity has to extend all the way down to the appointment of individuals who fill vacancies of precinct chairs, and we don’t have a system any more where one elected person can violate the law at will.
If you didn't catch the link to the petition at the beginning of this post, the petition itself is also HERE. The appendix of supporting documents is voluminous, but the posts below can take you to the supporting videos for your enjoyment. (I'll add some pinpoint cites to the more interesting parts when I get time.)
1. Organizational Meeting held July 19, 2022 (3.5 hours, all chairs participated, and nothing gets done)
2. July 23, 2022 Organizational Meeting, cont'd.(2 hours, all chairs, then mostly the Precinct Chair Group)
3. July 25, 2022 Zoom Meeting (4.5 hours of literally no progress)
4. August, 13, 2022 Emergency Meeting (Christ Group participates, but no one knows why this is an emergency):
5. September 6, 2022 Emergency Meeting (Another Christ Group meeting, with no known emergency)
6. December 6, 2022 Unity Meeting (Precinct Group invites all; Bryan Christ shows up, demand the body is "at ease" while the mtg does work)
I promise to get the full appendix uploaded at some point, but it's a monster. Until then, here are three of the supporting declarations that tell the story:
1) Declaration of Allison Winter (precinct chair and Vacancy Committee Chair)
2) Declaration of Charles Shirley (the treasurer elected on July 23, 2022).
3) Declaration of Gwen Withrow (SREC and one of the appointed precinct chairs)