Via America’s Lawyer: Texas has a new law that could result in prison sentences for up to 10 years in jail for anyone who protests a new fossil fuel pipeline. Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazine’s Editor Farron Cousins discuss.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Texas has a new law that could result in prison sentences for up to 10 years in jail for anyone who protests a new fossil fuel pipeline. I couldn’t make that up. This is just one of the many anti protest bills that states have passed and I have Farron Cousins from the Trial Lawyer Magazine here to explain all that. You know, I looked at this and it was almost as if there’s this notion that if it’s fossil fuel industry, then nothing really applies constitutionally.

First Amendment really doesn’t apply. You know, the right to protest, right to free speech. I don’t know how they get here. Now let me back up and say yes, there are times when the right to protest can be controlled. You can say you can protest over here. There are times when you say that, that your speech is so angry or it’s so dangerous that it can cause harm and so we can put some kind of regulator on this. But this is crazy talk.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             This is absolutely crazy talk and it’s the only, it’s a type of crazy talk that I can only expect. We started seeing this, oh, by the way, in the Obama administration, and now we’re seeing it now with Trump and it’s coming full circle. What do you think?

Farron Cousins:                  Right. This is exactly, well, essentially this is the result of the Keystone XL pipeline protest from years ago and the Standing Rock protests. The, the states all across, especially the, the fossil fuels states, the southern states, they saw those protests and said, well, we want a lot more pipelines in our state. How can we stop this? And not just stop the protesters, it’s stopping the publicity of how bad these pipelines are. Because when the protesters show up, the news cameras show up, news cameras show up, people start digging in. They understand, wait a minute, this is really bad for my state.

Mike Papantonio:             We can’t let people know.

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay, so here’s the problem. Look, I gotta tell you something. One thing I studied really well in law school was constitutional law. You’ve got so many problems here. Sometimes you have the conflict between what we call police powers and what you call, well First Amendment, whatever the other constitutional issue may be. And those police powers come in conflict. Okay. Most of the time the police powers are going to be in pretty good shape. You’re usually, you’re going to win on police powers more times than you lose.

So they’re trying to do this under what we call health safety and welfare police powers. That’s where they’re trying to come from. But they’re using all along, the wrong language. The wrong the, the language is you can’t do this if this interrupts an economic interest of the state or the entity. You can’t do this if you are affecting crucial infrastructure. Okay. Just with those two words, with those two phrases, you see the problem, right?

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             You see the constitutional problem here. This is a big constitutional problem. No, no surprises it’s being driven by the, by the fossil fuel industry. Oklahoma, North Dakota, Iowa. I could go on forever. But you see constitutionally you got 35 states trying to look at this. I think it’s a train wreck for them if you have a supreme court that’s honest about the interpretation here.

Farron Cousins:                  Exactly. Especially because a lot of these states went a little overboard with their laws, and it’s not just going after the people who show up at the, the pipeline protest. It’s any organization that went out there and promoted that there was going to be a protest. You know, or that we should organize against this pipeline. So you’re talking about the Sierra Club, you’re talking about the environmental working group. Any, any group out there promoting environmental activism suddenly becomes a criminal organization under these bills.

Mike Papantonio:             Let me add one other point. They’re calling it riot boosting. That’s the term. Again, riot boosting. What is riot boosting? And so what they’re, we’re talking about putting people in prison for 5 years, 10 years, $100,000 fine. When you don’t, you don’t even have to be there. You have to be accused of, of actually getting the people there. I don’t know. I think this is a, if we have some honest appellate courts, in the old days when we had that, this thing would be dead on arrival.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.