87th LegislatureEducationState HouseAustin Judge Blocks Arrest Warrants for Texas House Democrats Who Broke Quorum

The order, filed in Travis County district court, bars Governor Greg Abbott or Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan from restraining the Democrats.
August 9, 2021
An Austin judge has barred Governor Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan from detaining lawmakers that fled the capitol.

“The Court further finds that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to Plaintiffs [Democrats] before notice of a temporary restraining order application can be served and hearing had thereon,” the order reads, filed in Travis County District Court this morning.

On August 20, the court will hear arguments for and against a temporary injunction that would solidify this restraint.

So far, Phelan has only issued one arrest warrant. It was for Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), who briefly returned to Austin. The warrant has since expired since the first special session has ended.

A second special session began Saturday with an expanded set of topics.

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The order says Abbott and Phelan have “erroneously interpreted Texas law and legislative rules to permit the detention, confinement, or other restriction of members of the Texas House of Representatives.”

Phelan issued his warrant for Cortez under the authority of Article III of the Texas Constitution.

“Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide,” the Constitution states.

The order says that arrest warrants may not be legal under this provision.

“The Court RESTRAINS defendants the State of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott, and Speaker of the House Matthew McDade ‘Dade’ Phelan from… issuing any warrants or other instruments commanding the detention, confinement, or other restriction of a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent so as to interere substantially with his or her liberty within the State of Texas under the alleged authority of Article III, Section 10 of the Texas Constitution, House Rule 5, Section 8, or a Call to the House passed on or after July 13, 2021.”

The order is entirely separate from the lawsuit that some of the quorum-busting Democrats filed against Abbott in federal court.

However, the claims in both cases allege the same harm: loss of liberty or property and the “mental anguish of being separated from home,” as the order puts it.

Former state lawmaker and current chairman of the Texas GOP Matt Rinaldi weighed in on the dispute.

“I’m sure this gross abuse of authority will be overturned on appeal,” Rinaldi wrote.

“But in the meantime this is an order that should be ignored by Abbott and Phelan.”

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), one of the Democrats that petitioned the court for the order, likened warrants to slavery.

“The men and women of the Texas House, many of whom are Black and Brown Democrats, are not animals or property to be corralled by law enforcement and cabined against our will. It is morally wrong to believe otherwise,” Fischer reportedly said.

While over 50 Democrats fled the state, only 19 members joined this petition as plaintiffs.

Here are the 19 Democrat state representatives that petitioned the order:

  • Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin)
  • Alma Allen (D-Houston)
  • Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton)
  • Jasmine Crockett (D-Houston)
  • Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont)
  • Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio)
  • Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin)
  • Celia Israel (D-Austin)
  • Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio)
  • Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco)
  • Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
  • Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio)
  • Christina Morales (D-Houston)
  • Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston)
  • Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson)
  • Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo)
  • Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City)
  • Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin)
  • Ramon Romero, Jr. (D-Fort Worth)


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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.