87th LegislatureState HouseSupreme Court Halts Orders Prohibiting Arrests of 45 Texas House Democrats

Some Texas Democrats received a temporary reprieve from the threat of arrest after Harris County judges issued prohibitive orders.
August 12, 2021
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Orders prohibiting the arrest of nearly four dozen Texas House Democrats have been signed by three Harris County judges. At the behest of Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), they were signed after Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) issued civil arrest warrants for 52 Democrats that continued to break quorum this week.

Wu secured a protective order on Wednesday and said he was working for the same on behalf of his colleagues.

“Nobody can detain or drag us back to the House floor against our will,” he said, announcing the protections.

“Now, 44 of my colleagues have the same protections I have, at least temporarily.”

Wu and the group of nearly 60 legislators have broken quorum since mid-July, spending much of the time in Washington, D.C. The quorum break has been an effort to prevent the passage of a GOP-backed election reform bill, which the Senate approved again after a 15-hour filibuster by state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston).

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To date, no arrests have been made despite some members returning to the State of Texas while others remain out of state or out of the country.

A spokesman for Phelan, Enrique Marquez, told the Texas Tribune the issue will be ultimately decided by the Texas Supreme Court.

“Speaker Phelan feels confident in the arguments that were made and we expect a timely resolution of this issue in the immediate future. The Supreme Court’s ruling will be binding across the entire state.”

Shortly after this news, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a temporary stay on the Harris County judges’ orders, granting the relator’s emergency motion for immediate relief. The issue will now be considered more fully by the Supreme Court, and responses from the parties are due by Monday morning.

Governor Greg Abbott reacted to the order, stating, “The Dems have filed some of the most embarrassing lawsuits ever seen. Time for them to get to the Capitol and do the job they were elected to do.”

On Wednesday night when only Wu’s order had been levied, Attorney General Ken Paxton intimated that he’d fight the district judge’s ruling and “take it to the Supreme Court” if necessary.

Earlier this week, the Texas Supreme Court reversed an Austin district court judge’s prohibition on the issuance of arrest warrants. The higher court’s stay was issued less than a day after the lower court’s initial order.

The Texas House gaveled in at 4:00 p.m. Thursday and lacked quorum for the 31st consecutive day.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to mention the Supreme Court’s stay of the local judges’ orders and Abbott’s response.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.