Have additional Texas cities been sued based on their
enforcement of the governor’s orders?
Yes. In two separate federal court lawsuits, a “strip club” and
a softball/volleyball complex sued the City of Houston for enforcement of the
governor’s order. You read that right: A city is being sued for locally
enforcing the governor’s (not the city’s) order.
The judge in the sports complex case granted the owner's
temporary restraining order, which prevents the city from enforcing the
governor’s order. The court will hold a hearing on the preliminary injunction
on June 26th.
In the other case, the strip club claimed to be operating as a
restaurant that provides “additional entertainment (i.e., dancers confined to
stages throughout the establishment).” The court denied the club’s request for
an injunction because, in spite of also serving food, the strip club was still
operating as a “sexually-oriented business” in violation of the governor’s
orders. In the denial, the judge stated:
“The series of orders issued by the Governor, together with the
fact that his top law enforcement officer unethically rebuked some of those
orders, has caused a state of confusion that rests clearly on the Governor’s
doorstep. The orders of the Governor raise serious First Amendment and equal
protection issues, however, the Plaintiff has chosen in this action to raise
only First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and due process claims related to the
City of Houston’s enforcement of those various orders. The Court will
accordingly only address the Plaintiff’s claims against the City of Houston…
[T]he Court feels compelled to point out the constitutional
problems raised by the Governor’s various orders. The fact that the Governor
has now apparently decided that jail time is too harsh a penalty for a
violation of his orders is little comfort, as even that action seems to have
been motivated by the impact of his order on a single violator, Dallas salon
owner Shelley Luther, leaving many business owners unsure, even now, if the
orders would be equally applied to them. This uncertainty is exacerbated by the
fact that Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has now chosen to pay the fine owed by
The League will monitor and report on the cases as information
What’s the latest update regarding voting by mail during the
The attorney general issued the following press release
yesterday (May 13):
“AG Paxton Asks Texas Supreme Court
to Order Election Officials Who Urged Voters to Submit
Unlawful Mail-in Ballot Applications to Follow Texas Law:
Attorney General Ken Paxton?today?filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court,
requesting that the court compel the early-voting clerks for Dallas, Cameron,
El Paso, Harris and Travis Counties to follow Texas law on mail-in
ballots. Texas law generally requires in-person voting, and allows
mail balloting for certain limited groups, including those who are
disabled. In violation of that requirement, officials
in those counties are encouraging voters without actual
disabilities to claim “disability” on their mail-in ballot
‘Each misapplication of Texas election law damages the
integrity of our elections and increases the risk of voter fraud. In-person
voting is the surest way to prevent voter fraud and guarantee that
every voter is who they claim to be and has a fair opportunity to cast their
vote,’ said Attorney General Paxton. ‘It is unfortunate
that certain county election officials have refused to perform their
duties and have instead unlawfully gone beyond the Legislature’s
determination of who is eligible to vote by mail. My office will continue to
defend the integrity of Texas’s election laws.’
‘Disability,’ as that term is used in the Texas Election
Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, means a ‘sickness or physical
condition’ that prevents a voter from voting in person on election day without
a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.
A voter ill with COVID-19 and who meets those requirements may apply for a
ballot by mail. Fear of contracting COVID-19, however, is a
non-physical reaction to the current pandemic and does not amount to
a sickness or physical condition that qualifies a voter to receive a
ballot by mail.”
The above is reprinted verbatim from the attorney general’s
press release, and it isn’t necessarily a statement of the law as
confirmed by an appellate court. Here’s how we got to this
-A district court judge ordered a temporary injunction preventing the Travis
County clerk from rejecting any mail ballot applications received from
registered voters who use the disability category of eligibility as a result of
the COVID-19 pandemic as the justification for submitting the application.
-The attorney general immediately appealed the judge’s order, in
addition to issuing a memo to county election officials emphasizing that the
order has no effect during the appeal.
-The case was subsequently transferred from the Austin court of
appeals to the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, and the attorney general filed
a brief with the court of appeals arguing that the
judge’s order represented an unlawful expansion of mail-in voting.
-In addition to the state lawsuits above, the Texas Democratic
Party filed a lawsuit in federal court last April arguing that
interpreting existing state statute to limit voting by mail violates federal
law and the United States Constitution.
-Also, a group of voters and civil rights groups filed a new
lawsuit in federal district court in San Antonio. -The plaintiffs’ complaint for injunctive relief alleges that certain
existing state statutes governing the procedure for voting by mail are
-The governor issued a proclamation that doubled the length of the early
voting period for the upcoming July 14 primary runoff election, which is the
first statewide election to be conducted during the pandemic.
That brings us to yesterday and to the new attorney general
lawsuit, filed directly with the Texas Supreme Court to bypass the typical
judicial process, which is the subject of the press release above.
The League will continue to report on these developing
cases. (Please note that the state court systems’ website was hacked and
is currently unavailable, which means finding court filings is difficult and
some links may be temporarily disabled.)
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.