First Amendment

  • Blogs

    September 18, 2014

    Appeals Court Strikes Down "Improper Photography" Law

    A Texas appeals court has ruled the state can't ban "improper photography" in public places, striking down a sweeping law that criminalized photos taken in public "with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person." Like many free speech battles, the underlying case that trigger ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 2, 2014

    Texas Supreme Court Rules in Internet Smear Case

    The Texas Supreme Court last week issued a ruling that could change how Texas lawyers fight defamation in the internet age. The State Supremes ruled in the case of Robert Kinney, a Texas legal recruiter for BCG Attorney Search, Inc. who left the firm in 2004 to start a competing venture. Some time ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 19, 2014

    Sheriff's Deputy Sues Over New HCSO Social Media Policy

    If you're a Harris County Sheriff's Office employee, good luck sticking to the new restrictions put in place by the HCSO higher-ups that dictate what you can and can't post on social media. Under the new policy, HCSO employees risk disciplinary action if their Facebook or Twitter posts "cause undu ... More >>

  • Blogs

    June 27, 2014

    Supreme Court Nixes Buffers, But Texas Abortion Clinics Are Mostly Closing Anyway

    In the middle of the big Wendy Davis filibuster last year, it must have been tempting to think that something big was happening, that real change was afoot, or at least there was a chance the anti-abortion law would be stopped. Well, that was cute. It's been a year now, as of this week, and nothin ... More >>

  • Blogs

    March 17, 2014

    "Machete Kills" Producers Sue Texas Film Commission

    A lawsuit filed by the producers of "Machete Kills" accuses the Texas Film Commission of violating the producers' First Amendment rights by denying tax breaks usually granted to films made in Texas. Per the Courthouse News, the suit claims that the sequel to director Robert Rodriguez's 2010 "Machet ... More >>

  • Blogs

    February 26, 2014

    Another Teacher Wins in Sexting Case

    Yet again a Texas court has absolved a teacher for being pervy with a student, thanks to a court ruling last year connected to a Houston case. A Fort Worth teacher in this 30s was let off the hook recently and the case dismissed after being arrested for getting all PG/PG-13 with a student at Baxter ... More >>

  • Dining

    January 23, 2014

    Rest of the Best 2013

    Top 10 drive-throughs in Houston.

  • Blogs

    January 22, 2014

    Truthiness and Free Speech: Supreme Court Takes Up Important First Amendment Case

    The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently agreed to hear a case that has important implications for political discourse in campaigns. Indeed, this case has a little bit of everything: abortion rights, free speech, campaign finance and PACs. Here's what happened: an anti-abortion PAC, Susan B. Anthony Lis ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 14, 2014

    Your Anonymous Reviews and Comments May Not Be Anonymous Much Longer

    So much for free speech. Last week, a Virginia court ruled that Yelp must turn over the identities of seven anonymous reviewers of a carpet store because the commenters may not have been actual customers. According to Yelp's terms of service: "You may expose yourself to liability if, for example, ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 8, 2014

    The Conservative Thought Police Hits Kansas

    One of conservatives' favorite rhetorical tropes is to criticize the "liberal elite." Birthed largely by Barry Goldwater and George Wallace, it was perfected by Nixon. Spiro Agnew, Nixon's attack dog/Vice-President made references to the coastal elite, a red-meat line in his speeches. Necessarily i ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 3, 2014

    Texas Supreme Court to Take Up First Amendment Internet Smear Case

    Next week, the Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that presents some interesting First Amendment issues in regard to the Internet. In short, here's what happened. An employee (Robert Kinney) of an attorney employment search company (owned by Robert Barnes), quit his job with Barn ... More >>

  • Blogs

    November 13, 2013

    Prayer for Me, But Not for Thee: The Supreme Court Hears Argument on the New Legislative Prayer Case

    Case Name: Town of Greece v. Galloway What this Case is About? The First Amendment, more specifically the Establishment Clause (the government cannot establish a state religion) in the First Amendment. The town Greece, New York is outside of Rochester and has a population of approximately 100,000. ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 26, 2013

    Go Ahead, Keep Clicking that Like Button, the First Amendment is Behind You

    A federal court (the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals) ruled last week that clicking "like" on a political candidate's Facebook page "is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech." The case came from humble beginnings. Dan Carter ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 23, 2013

    Sen. John Cornyn Is Out To Stop "Murderabilia"

    Sen. John Cornyn has had some interesting notions, but his latest move -- a law to ban "murderabilia," aka the move to ban the sale of artwork, letters or any other stuff that is valuable because of an association with a mass murderer/serial killer/someone-who-committed-any-other-heinous-crime -- j ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 16, 2013

    Abortion Returns to the Supreme Court: A Preview

    Abortion. Just to read the word provokes strong mental images, emotions and opinions. Since the tea party mid-term elections in 2010 swept in some very conservative legislators in states across the country, abortion, after taking a back seat to economic issues, has become a hot button issue again. ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 26, 2013

    Appeal Filed in Animal Crush Video Case

    Four months after a federal judge dismissed charges against a Houston couple who created animal torture videos because the statute was unconstitutional, federal prosecutors have filed an appeal arguing that the judge ruled in error. Crush videos "are unprotected under the First Amendment for the sa ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 18, 2013

    Facebook 'Terrorist' Released After Anonymous Donor Posts $500,000 Bail

    The mother of 19-year-old Justin Carter is still collecting signatures -- 134,927 at last count -- trying to enlist supporters to keep her son from being labeled a terrorist and sentenced to prison. She began working on this as a plea for her son's release from a New Braunfels prison when an anon ... More >>

  • Blogs

    June 13, 2013

    The Hottest Censored Album Covers, 1981-Present (NSFW)

    Longtime readers of Rocks Off might remember that back in 2009 we ran thorough look at censored album covers that spanned the years of 1966 to 1980, with two more recent covers at the end. Of course, album covers didn't stop being censored just as frequently after 1980, and the two examples in our f ... More >>

  • News

    May 16, 2013

    Open Season: Do Laws Against Animal Crushing Videos Violate Free Speech?

    Ashley Nicole Richards, who filmed herself torturing and killing kittens, puppies, cats and dogs, was the first person brought up on revised federal crush-video charges -- which backfired magnificently.

  • Blogs

    May 15, 2013

    Cover Story: Federal Animal "Crush" Law Tested in Houston

    In December 2012, two Houstonians became the first defendants charged under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, which criminalizes the production and distribution of images of animal cruelty. Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Wayne Justice were originally charged in Harris County Distric ... More >>

  • Blogs

    February 5, 2013

    Denise Pratt: Family Court Judge Issues Blanket Gag Order, Because it Sucks When the Public Knows What's Going On

    We've heard of judges issuing gag orders in especially sensitive cases, but until now, we've never heard of a judge issuing a blanket gag order: Harris County Family Court Judge Denise Pratt on January 23 sent a motion to attorneys in her court involved with SAPCR cases -- suits affecting parent-chi ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 31, 2013

    The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Album-Cover "Controversy" Bores Me

    The release of the "controversial" cover art for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' forthcoming album, Mosquito, has managed to stir up quite a bit of buzz. (Leave me alone. I like puns.) If you've somehow managed to escape the album-cover hype, I'll let you in on a little secret: you're not missing much in ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 27, 2012

    AG Greg Abbott Can't Keep Himself Out Of The Kountze Cheerleader Bible Case

    In a development that really only has people asking "What took so long?" Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, ever eager to flail whatever red-meat rightwing issue that crosses his desk, has "offered assistance" to the good folks at the Kountze school district who have received a "menacing and mislea ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 23, 2012

    How Far Is Too Far: Verizon Argues Its Network Is Protected Under the Fifth Amendment

    There is a tenuous balance in the digital world between people who share things online, those with whom they share them and the person/entity in between that facilitates that sharing process. In the simplest terms, that entity is like a bank that holds your money between the time you receive it and ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 12, 2012

    5 Ways to Tell if You're Being Racist on the Internet

    Railing against the above graphic got me banned from yet another Facebook. I wasn't really commenting on the mild, but overt racism of the image. What set me off what the fact that the poster couldn't understand the differences between the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jacqueline Gardner, or why Ma ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 12, 2012

    ACLU: Police Seizing of Witness's Phone Illegal and Totally Not Cool

    The ACLU of Texas is criticizing a Houston police officer's alleged seizing of a witness's cell phone at the scene where the officer shot an unarmed man. HPD says Officer J. McGowan shot Rufino Lara while investigating an alleged assault after he refused both English and Spanish commands to put his ... More >>

  • Blogs

    May 17, 2012

    Girls, Girls, Girls At 25: Anatomy Of A Strip-Club Classic

    Mötley Crüe, those depraved kings of '80s sleaze, took a major step toward strip-club immortality 25 years ago this week when the band released its fourth album, Girls, Girls, Girls.. Glossy, debauched heavy metal ruled the charts in the summer of 1987 -- Whitesnake, Ozzy, Bon Jovi and Poison all ... More >>

  • Blogs

    May 8, 2012

    Terence Johnson Throws American Flag into Traffic, But Is That Illegal?

    There can be a thin line between ballsy and dumb. Terence Dwayne Johnson, 20, of the tiny East Texas hamlet of Bedias, apparently decided to test where that line might be. According to cops who talked to KLTV, security footage at a Lovelady hardware store shows him grabbing an American flag out of ... More >>

  • News

    February 23, 2012
  • Blogs

    February 13, 2012

    The 5 Best Disses of Religious Zealots in the Greatest Prayer-in-Schools Ruling Ever Written

    Last week U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed to a settlement in a long-running case involving prayer in a Central Texas school district. His ruling got some ink, but perhaps not all it deserved, for it is a concise masterpiece of sanity that comes from one of the most turbulent, extremist arenas ... More >>

  • Blogs

    October 25, 2011

    Austin's Jester King Craft Brewery Sues the TABC, But Is the TABC Really the Bad Guy?

    Shit just got real.​Jester King, based in Austin, is one of the state's most popular craft breweries. The TABC (or Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission), also based in Austin, is one of the state's most powerful agencies. And with news that Jester King has just filed a lawsuit against the TABC, ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 5, 2011

    Gov. Rick Perry May Have Used Taxpayer Dollars To Promote "The Response", Says ACLU

    Photo by Mandy OaklanderReverend Barry Lynn and Terri Burke are protesting The Response​Diversity-minded, Constitution-abiding folks are pissed at tomorrow's one-day Jesus camp called "The Response." Governor Rick Perry, of course, is the belle of the ball. It's a little complicated since he' ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 5, 2011

    Jolanda Jones Fires Back: A Grievance Against the City Attorney, and Big Blasts From Her Spokesperson

    Jolanda Jones firing shots of her own​Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, the subject of a city inspector general investigation, has filed a Texas State Bar grievance against City Attorney David Feldman. Jones's spokeswoman, Kelly Cripe, would not provide a copy of the grievance, but she ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 5, 2011

    Texas Mandatory-Sonogram Bill: Court Challenge Ramps Up Tomorrow

    Group says new law "imposes stress and emotional strain on women as they prepare to undergo a medical procedure."​The legal challenge to the new bill that forces women who are seeking an abortion to get a sonogram begins for real tomorrow, with a hearing on a temporary injunction barring enfo ... More >>

  • Blogs

    June 23, 2011

    Four Musicians Roth Vs. U.S. Would Have Jailed (NSFW)

    AP/Life.comSamuel Roth​Standing up for the First Amendement is a hard row to hoe sometimes. Sure, it's fun when you can defend someone like Marilyn Manson, but it's a lot less fun when you realize you also have to defend people like the Westboro Baptist Church. Thems the breaks, though. If you ... More >>

  • Blogs

    June 2, 2011

    Four Comic-Book Characters Inspired By Musicians

    ​Rocks off just can't seem to get comic books out of our blood. Between being fully immersed in Comicpalooza last weekend and trying to point out to Broadway how many other comic characters would make better and safer musicals than Spider-Man, we've regressed to being 15 with ink-stained figur ... More >>

  • Blogs

    May 9, 2011

    Small Fort Bend Paper Hit With $1 Million Libel Verdict on Story About Son of Sheriff's Deputy

    $50K in actual damages, $1 million in punitives.​The Fort Bend Star, a small but often feisty publication that covers county events and politics, has been slammed with a million-dollar libel verdict for a story it ran about a sheriff's deputy and his sons. A jury awarded Wade Brady, the son o ... More >>

  • Blogs

    March 25, 2011

    Animal-Mutilation Film Screens Tonight Near Rice U.​Just in case the online version of Farm to Fridge - The Truth Behind Meat Production wasn't enough for you, go check out the animal-abuse document on giant screens tonight (Friday). We'll be waiting here with barf bags. As was previously reported by Hair Balls, Mercy for A ... More >>

  • Blogs

    February 28, 2011

    Local State Senator Pushing for Sunday Liquor Sales in Texas

    pamlaneSunday Funday indeed.​Such times as these - the economy in recession, federal and state governments mired in debt, and more than 8 percent unemployment - are leading state lawmakers around the country to question the financial logistics of blue laws restricting any business from operati ... More >>

  • Blogs

    December 14, 2010

    Where Are WikiLeaks' Media Friends? (UPDATED)

    From Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media Holdings: Updated: Here is the link to the full story of the media's betrayal of WikiLeaks. Where are the First Amendment's establishment warriors as government-spooked businesses try to shut down Wikileaks? Hackers with computers, not h ... More >>

  • Blogs

    December 6, 2010

    WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Texas Principals Still Face Lawsuit Over Banning Jesus Pencils & Candy Canes

    Who knew Jesus was a "Say my name! Say my name!" guy?​Two Texas elementary school principals have failed in their attempt to have the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismiss a suit filed against them for trying to kill the spirit of Christmas, not to mention Jesus, in innocent young children ... More >>

  • Blogs

    October 22, 2010

    Voodoo Lady: Christine O'Donnell's Halloween Playlist

    ​Christine O'Donnell's "I Am Not a Witch" ad gave us truckloads of comedy during a rather boring election season. Thanks to that unintentionally hilarious ad and the upcoming election, Christine has been on our minds lately. To better understand what drives the Teabag candidate, we stole her ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 11, 2010 Throws a Little Protest in Houston

    Photos by Christopher Patronella,, throwing signs. See a slideshow from yesterday's protest.​Local members of held a rally Tuesday taking aim at corporate control in Washington, delivering petition signatures to the Heights office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and ur ... More >>

  • News

    July 29, 2010

    Basketball Diaries

    Readers respond to "Trash Talk"

  • Blogs

    February 19, 2009

    The Judicial Conduct Commission Actually Moves Against "Killer Keller"

    No one gave State Rep. Lon Burnam much of a chance with his call to impeach Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller -- they still don't -- but he may have spurred some action.In what is either the biggest coincidence of all time or, well, the biggest coincidence of all time, the state Commissi ... More >>

  • Blogs

    May 25, 2008

    Get Lit: Q&A with Sgt. Brian Foster of the Houston Police Department

    During his 34-year career in law enforcement—23 of those as a Detective/Sergeant with the Houston Police Department Homicide Division-- Sgt. Brian Foster always kept both his notebook and his ears open. But not just to record the confessions, bizarre incidents, statements, stories, and lies that ... More >>

  • Blogs

    November 14, 2007

    Tunnel Mole Goes to the Polls

    Tunnel Mole scurried out from the Beloved Downtown Houston Tunnel System last week to vote – as that’s one of the few services missing down below – and regrettably confirmed her fears about the polling place. Actually, a polling place. Ours was starting to get crowded and boisterous just befo ... More >>

  • Blogs

    June 25, 2007

    Bong Hits 4 Jesus

    Not only did a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court not find Joseph Frederick’s banner of “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” funny, now they’ve made it tougher for other public school students to exercise their First Amendment rights in a decision announced this morning. Frederick argued that when he unfur ... More >>

  • Blogs

    May 31, 2007

    A Dispatch from the Streets of Houston

    We got a call yesterday from a homeless fellow named Satch who asked us for advice on how to stage a protest against the City of Houston. Satch figures his First Amendment rights are being violated every time a cop tells him to move along when he’s trying to get along. So we placed a call on his b ... More >>

  • Blogs

    April 30, 2007

    Re: In the Line of Fire

    So Dusti Rhodes and Daniel Kramer just got waved off our roof by an officer on the ground -- damn cops, trying to infringe on our First Amendment right to get ourselves shot -- but not before Dusti managed to capture this charming little micro-narrative of a cameraman being shooed away. Scroll your ... More >>

  • More >>