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Politics

Austin Judge Signs Order To Block Arrests Of Texas House Democrats Breaking Quorum

A group of lawmakers stand around a lectern with a sign for the Texas House Democratic Caucus.
Shuran Huang
/
for The Texas Tribune
At least 50 House Democrats that Texas left the state held a press conference in Washington D.C. The democrats broke quorum and stopped Republicans from taking up GOP priority bills on July 13, 2021.

A state district judge in Travis County has granted a temporary restraining order blocking the arrest of House Democrats who have broken quorum by leaving the state, paving the way for those who remain outside of Texas to return home without threat of arrest.

State District Judge Brad Urrutia, a Democrat, signed the order late Sunday night restricting Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan from "detaining, confining or otherwise restricting" the free movement of House Democrats within the state or issuing any warrants ordering their confinement.

The order expires in 14 days unless extended by Urrutia. The court will hear arguments on a temporary injunction on Aug. 20 where Abbott and Phelan must show why a temporary injunction should not be filed against them.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 19 House Democrats by attorneys Sam Bassett, Jeremy Monthy and Megan Rue.

It is the second lawsuit filed by House Democrats in an attempt to avoid arrest if they returned to Texas. The other was filed by attorney Craig Washington in federal court in Austin on behalf of 22 House Democrats. It was riddled with problems, including subsequent statements by at least four of the plaintiffs that they had not authorized the suit on their behalf.

The lawsuit in federal court also included State Rep. James White, R-Hilister, as a defendant. White is not named as a defendant in the case in state court.

Reference

Read the Democrats petition for a judge to block their arrests.

(1.7 MB)

Reference

Read the judge's order blocking Democrats' arrest.
(215.2 KB)

In July, more than 50 House Democrats left the state during a 30-day specially called legislative session to block the passage of an elections bill they said would restrict voting access. The remaining members in the chamber voted to authorize a "call of the House" under which all entrances into the chamber can be locked and lawmakers are not permitted to leave without permission from the speaker. They also asked the chamber's sergeant-at-arms and other law enforcement officers to bring the missing lawmakers back "under warrant of arrest if necessary."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/09/texas-democrats-special-session/.