Supreme Court to hear case of former Castle Hills councilwoman who claims First Amendment rights were violated

It could take up to two months before a decision is made

SAN ANTONIO – On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the First Amendment retaliation claim of Castle Hills resident Sylvia Gonzalez, a former councilwoman for the city.

The initial incident started five years ago, but the criminal charge of tampering with governmental records was eventually dismissed.

Castle Hills Police investigators say that in May 2019, Gonzalez removed a stack of documents from the mayor’s desk. The documents were a petition to remove the Castle Hills city manager.

Two months later, Gonzalez was arrested, booked and charged. She filed a lawsuit after the incident.

Attorney Anya Bidwell with the Institute for Justice represents Gonzalez in her U.S. Supreme Court case.

Bidwell said there was a rush to arrest and book Gonzalez when there was really no emergency to do so.

“It would have made sense to issue her a summons and then ask her to appear before a judge. That’s what normally happens,” Bidwell said. “Instead, they force her to sit in an orange shirt, handcuffed on the metal bench in jail. That’s a red flag for retaliation.”

Bidwell said the broadly written probable cause statute is what’s in question.

“Miss Gonzalez’s First Amendment rights were violated. She petitioned her government to remove the city manager. And ironically, they used that very petition as a reason for her arrest,” Bidwell said. “Just because there was probable cause to charge her under the law doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit.”

KSAT reached out to the City of Castle Hills city manager and mayor for comment.

Mayor JR Trevino said he could not comment on pending litigation. He is directly named in the case going before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys will present their case on Wednesday morning, and it could take two months to hear a decision.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.

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