Elections 2020JudicialTexas Supreme Court Rejects State GOP’s Petition to Hold Convention In-Person

The Republican Party of Texas now must scramble to accommodate either a location change or an online convention that is scheduled to happen this week.
July 13, 2020
After a week-long battle over whether the Republican Party of Texas’ (RPT) convention will be held in-person, the Texas Supreme Court has denied the party’s temporary relief request that would have forced the City of Houston to allow the convention to proceed.

The court’s decision comes after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston First Corporation canceled the convention contract between them and the RPT — citing rising COVID-19 cases.

RPT Chairman James Dickey then filed suit against the City of Houston for breaching its contract, arguing the force majeure invocation was done illegitimately and that the city treated them differently than the George Floyd protesters.

It was promptly denied by a Houston District Court and the party immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.

On Saturday, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an opinion stating that the plaintiff had not correctly invoked the court’s mandamus authority.

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In his opinion, Paxton argues RPT believes Houston has a “duty imposed by law” — in this case, the contract it signed — to allow the convention to be held. However, the court found that provision is “limited to a duty imposed by a constitution, statute, city charter, or city ordinance.”

Instead, the court disagreed with Paxton in that the RPT is not alleging such a thing, rather, that “it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities.” The court says this is “unquestionably true.”

However, it further adds “those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center. Houston First’s only duty to allow the Party use of the Center for its Convention is under the terms of the parties’ Agreement, not a constitution.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice John Devine called the result “A subordination of both contractual and constitutional rights, and irreparable damage done to the exercise of ‘one of the most solemn trusts in human society’ — choosing who leads the country.”

“We had hoped that the Supreme Court of Texas would recognize that the issue before it involved constitutionally protected rights flowing from our contract with the Convention Center and confirm that a contract cannot be breached for political purposes,” said Dickey in a statement.

Other counties, such as Montgomery, have offered to accommodate the RPT’s needs to host the convention. But, during the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) meeting on Saturday, the party informed those watching the logistical, monetary, and spatial difficulties that make it an unlikely option.

This morning, the RPT began its hearing in the Harris County District Court in a final attempt to compel the City of Houston to follow through on its contract.

“We await the ruling from that court. Regardless, we will have our Convention on time as scheduled. I am in Houston where the Temporary Committee meetings are starting in person,” Dickey said.

The SREC did not solidify any backup plans during that meeting, banking on the hope the Supreme Court might rule their way.

Dickey also said that the event cannot be postponed any longer as the Republican National Committee needs their Texas delegates decided.

In-person committee meetings will still happen at a hotel across the street from the convention center in Houston.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and 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.