Victoria County Courthouse

The Victoria County Courthouse.

Attorneys for a criminal justice advocate, who was indefinitely banned from the Victoria County Courthouse by a district judge, filed a lawsuit against county law enforcement officials on Thursday.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of Texas, argues that her First Amendment rights were infringed upon.

District Judge Eli Garza requested and signed the criminal trespass warning for Anna Harris after he was informed of a video she made in one of the third-floor courtrooms.

The video, a 15-second clip on the popular social media platform TikTok, shows Harris climbing onto the judge’s dais and dancing to a Destiny’s Child song while the courtroom was not in use.

Harris is the executive director of JUST-US Participatory Defense, a Texas nonprofit that advocates on behalf of criminal defendants in rural counties.

According to the lawsuit, Harris’ First Amendment rights were infringed when she was banned indefinitely from visiting the courthouse, which is a public space. It also argues that the video published to TikTok is her speech, so banning her based on the video alone would be an infringement of her rights.

Victoria County Sheriff Justin Marr, whose office issued the criminal trespass warning, and Victoria County District Attorney Constance Filley Johnson, whose office would subsequently prosecute Harris if she was arrested, are listed in the lawsuit.

In response to emailed questions, Filley Johnson declined to comment “in light of pending litigation,” she said. Filley Johnson also did not respond to questions asking whether she would prosecute Harris for violating the trespass warning.

Marr, who was aware of the criminal trespass warning, said he was not aware of the lawsuit and had not been served any paperwork.

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Chase covers breaking news, crime and courts for the Advocate. He can be reached at 361-574-1286, crogers@vicad.com or at @chasedrogers on Twitter.

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Breaking News & Public Safety Reporter

Chase writes about crime and courts for the Victoria Advocate. He grew up in the Dallas–Fort Worth area before attending Texas State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication and journalism.

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