Phillip Turner was filming a Fort Worth, Texas, police station from a public sidewalk when officers handcuffed him and put him in a police cruiser.
Turner sued them in the case Turner v. Driver, which helped establish the right to film police. His attorney Meagan Hassan helped bring the 2015 case to the 5th United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
The landmark case put Hassan, a 2007 Temple University law alumna, on the map of legal experts in Houston. Now, she’s campaigning to be elected as a judge on Texas’s 14th Court of Appeals.
Hassan currently works as an attorney specializing in constitutional law with Houston-based firm Demond & Hassan, PLLC. She is running to replace Bill Boyce, a Republican incumbent who has served since December 2007. Boyce could not be reached for comment.
Judges are elected through partisan elections, which means the candidate’s party is listed on the ballot.
“The judges tend to favor corporations over individuals,” said Hassan, who is running as a Democrat. “They tend to favor the state over individuals and criminal cases. That needs to change.”
If Hassan is elected, her jurisdiction will cover about 5.5 million people, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. The 1st and 14th district courts of appeals hear cases from the same 10 counties. Every sitting judge on the 1st and 14th district benches is a Republican, according to Ballotpedia.
Hassan said only one Democrat has been elected to either the 1st or the 14th districts since 1994.
“There needs to be a systemic change in the way the court approaches their view of the law,” she added. “They don’t run as a check on the legislature or the administrative branch right now. It feels more like a rubber stamp on the laws that come out of Austin.”
With five places on the 14th District court up for re-election this year, Hassan’s law partner William Demond encouraged her to run.
Demond, who specializes in civil rights litigation and research, said Hassan’s constitutional law experience and commitment to due process make her a good candidate.
“We see a lot [of cases] where due process violations are routinely indicated by governmental conduct,” he added. “Government actors typically don’t really care, and that’s really dangerous.”
Hassan and Demond have worked together since 2011. The pair got their start in Lesher v. Topix, a landmark cyber defamation lawsuit in which a jury awarded their clients more than $13 million.
Commenters on an online forum accused Mark and Rhonda Lesher of being drug dealers and committing sexual misconduct before they were indicted on charges for which a jury later found them not guilty.
Demond, who also assists with running Hassan’s campaign, said it was the highest cyber defamation verdict in the country at the time. Because of the case, Demond and Hassan were inducted into the Texas Lawyer Verdicts Hall of Fame and gained credibility throughout Houston.
Alessandra Phillips, a 2007 law alumna who knew Hassan while at Temple, said Hassan has always championed equality.
“I have absolute faith that she would understand that her role is to take a look at the law, take a look at the reason underpinning it and apply that in a particular situation,” Phillips said.
Judges on the appeals court serve six-year terms.
“That’s a long time to be represented by one party in a state where you elect judges and you elect judges by party, and you have this large urban county in the middle of the district,” Hassan said.
She added the 14th Court of Appeals tends to get the law wrong more often than people think.
“They are not as fair and balanced as we would want court to be,” Hassan said. “I believe that with my experience, I’m qualified to serve on the court. In a lot of ways, it says, ‘If not me, who?’”