The House Democrats are going to be able to return to Texas without being subject to arrest by state police after a Democrat State District Judge issued a restraining order against their arrest.
State District Judge Brad Urrutia in Travis County, which includes the state Capitol in Austin, Texas, issued the temporary restraining order late Sunday night, The Texas Tribune reported Monday.
The order is for 14 days unless extended by Urrutia and it blocks state police – on the permission of GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP House Speak Dade Phelan – from "detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting" free movement of Texas House Democrats that fled the state to avoid losing votes in another special session, according to the report.
The Texas House did not have a quorum when Gov. Abbott called yet another 30-day special session to pass needed legislation in the state, which also included election reform laws.
The court will hear arguments on a temporary injunction Aug. 20, and Texas Republicans must show why a temporary injunction should not be filed, the Tribune reported.
"The ruling by the Travis County judge is contrary to the Texas Constitution and violates the separation of powers between the different branches of government," Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman, told the Tribune. "We are confident that this overstep will be overturned. Texas Democrats need to stop the charades and get back to work."
More than 50 Texas House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., to break quorum on the last 30-day special session.
Abbott has authorized the state police to arrest Democrats upon their return to the state of Texas to bring Democrats back to the Capitol.
Attorneys Samuel E. Bassett, Jeremy Monthy, and Megan Rue filed the preemptive call for the restraining order on behalf of 19 Texas House Democrats.
"No matter what the governor or speaker have said, it is a fundamental principle in this country that no one has the power to arrest their political opponents," Bassett wrote in a statement.
"That is why this action had to be filed."
Speaker Phelan had signed a civil warrant for Democrat Rep. Philip Cortez when he returned to the state, but he left state Capitol again a few days later, according to the Tribune.
"The speaker thinks he can wave his hand and have his political opponents rounded up and arrested," Dallas state Democrat Rep. Jasmine Crockett, a plaintiff in the case, told the Tribune.
"We're watching a major political party backslide in real time from fair representation, the rule of law, and democracy itself."
Among the plaintiffs in the case are, according to the Tribune: Reps. Gina Hinojosa, Alma Allen, Michelle Beckley, Jasmine Crockett, Joe Deshotel, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Vikki Goodwin, Celia Israel, Ray Lopez, Armando “Mando” Martinez, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ina Minjarez, Christina Morales, Mary Ann Perez, Ana-Maria Ramos, Richard Peña Raymond, Ron Reynolds, Eddie Rodriguez and Ramon Romero, Jr.
All of those Democrats broke quorum and left the state in July.
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