The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires government contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts of Israel or territories controlled by Israel. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four Texans, argues that the law, HB 89, which went into effect last year, violates the First Amendment’s protection against government intrusion into political speech.

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of four people who were forced under the law to choose between signing the certification or forgoing professional opportunities and losing income: John Pluecker, a freelance writer who lost two service contracts from the University of Houston; George Hale, a reporter for KETR who was forced to sign the certification against his conscience in order to keep his job; Obinna Dennar, a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, who was forced to forfeit payment for judging at a debate tournament; and Zachary Abdelhadi, a student at Texas State University, who has had to forego opportunities to judge high school debate tournaments.

Update 6/15/20: The district court ruled in the ACLU of Texas' favor and held that forcing contractors to sign “No Boycott of Israel” certifications was unconstitutional. In reaction to the court’s ruling, the Texas State Legislature significantly narrowed the law: It now no longer applies to sole proprietors, only to companies with 10 or more employees when the contract with the state is worth more than $100,000. Because of these changes, the case, which involved only sole proprietors, was dismissed.

Date filed

December 18, 2018


U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas Austin Division