BELL COUNTY (September 3, 2014) Two federal lawsuits filed against Bell County Sheriff Eddie Lange complaining he violated First Amendment rights of two former deputies have been dismissed in federal court.
In court documents presented in federal district court in Austin, U.S. District Judge James Nowlin dismissed all complaints in the suits filed in February 2013 by Charles M. Grogan and Mary J. Farley, both former deputies, who said they were demoted because they publicly supported Lange's opponent Bob Patterson, in the 2012 GOP primary election for sheriff.
The dismissal was signed July 22 in Austin, but since that time both Grogan and Farley filed notice of intent to appeal Nowlin's decision with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court, in New Orleans.
Lange has long admitted the demotions at least partially were based upon the fact that Grogan and Farley supported Patterson because there were questions about whether the two would fully support Lange when he took office.
Lange said the decisions were sound from the beginning and that he had every right to do what he did with respect to Grogan and Farley.
"Unfortunately, it cost the taxpayers a lot of money to defend it," Lange said.
Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said he is not yet sure how much the county will have to pay the lawyers who defended Bell County, Lange, and several other officials who were named in the lawsuit.
In his ruling Nowlin said Lange's privilege to employ people he knows will support his policies outweighs any First Amendment challenge in this case.
Nowlin dismissed the issues "with prejudice", which means that the plaintiffs are barred from re-introducing a complaint on the same issue.