The ruling, initially granted by Judge Alan D. Albright of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in September 2023, prevented independent bookstores, national chain bookstores, online retailers, and publishers from being compelled to review and rate books based on sexual content. The state’s vague labeling system, lacking any avenue for judicial review, was at the heart of the legal challenge.
Judge Don Willett, writing for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, emphasized the plaintiffs’ right to sell books without being coerced into conveying the state’s preferred message. He rejected the State’s argument that the Reader Act did not implicate the First Amendment rights of the involved parties.
The court agreed with the preliminary injunction, asserting that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their First Amendment claims and face economic and constitutional injuries if the law were to remain in effect. Notably, the court dismissed the government-speech doctrine, asserting that the book ratings were the vendors’ speech, not the government’s.
The court’s decision focused on the irreparable harm caused by the Reader Act, emphasizing that the loss of First Amendment freedoms, even for minimal periods, constitutes irreparable injury. This landmark ruling marks a triumph for bookstores, readers, and the principles of free expression.
Read the full press release by the Association of American Publishers here.