JudicialLocal NewsAppeals Court Halts El Paso County’s Lockdown Orders

An appeals court has stalled El Paso's lockdown until a lawsuit between a group of restaurateurs and the county judge concludes.
November 13, 2020
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Until a lawsuit between the county judge and a group of restaurants ends, El Paso County’s lockdown has been stalled.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday granted the motion for a temporary injunction to the group of business owners, ending the lockdown until their lawsuit against El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego concludes. The injunction is separate from the lawsuit itself, still pending, which alleges that Samaniego’s orders conflict with Governor Greg Abbott’s GA-32 and the Texas Disaster Act that enables it.

“The question here is whether the people of El Paso County should follow one set of rules from the governor, or another set of rules from a county judge, when those rules say different things,” the ruling reads.

“In an ordered, civilized society, it is intolerable that the public would be subject to conflicting pronouncements from their elected officials, especially when both contain criminal penalties of differing monetary amounts. It is our duty to resolve that conundrum, even if for one day.”

That one day nearly made a big difference in court. Just two days ago, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of mandamus that would have forced the Eighth Circuit to decide the case sooner — a small but pivotal detail in today’s opinions, since Samaniego renewed the lockdown by issuing a similar new order instead of pushing back the expiration date of his old one.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined forces with the group of restaurant owners, petitioning the Texas Supreme Court for the writ of mandamus and aiding the group in court.

Although the Eighth Circuit granted Paxton’s request to expedite the appeal, the court set the decision date for November 12, the day after Samaniego’s order EO-13 expired and the beginning of the similar lockdown order EO-14.

For the restaurants, November 11 simply marked a renewal of the same rule that kept them closed.

Although the Eighth Circuit ultimately sided with the plaintiffs pending the lawsuit, one of the three judges dissented, arguing that the court had no jurisdiction to decide the newer EO-14.

“Emergency Order No. 14 is a completely new order issued under vastly different circumstances than those Judge Moody considered at the hearing on November 4, 2020,” Justice Yvonne Rodriguez wrote.

“The very fact Emergency Order 14 takes effect November 12, 2020… coupled with the different factors the order relies upon and additional new provisions leave little doubt this is a separate stand-alone Executive Order.”

Justice William Moody is the 34th District Court judge that initially ruled in favor of the lockdown before Paxton and the defendants appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.