A Texas district judge blocked Gov. Greg Abbott (R) from arresting dozens of state House Democrats who avoided their duties by fleeing to Washington.
Judge Brad Urrutia (D) in Travis County, which includes Texas Capitol in Austin, issued a temporary restraining order that prevents state police from “detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting” free movement of state House Democrats on Aug. 8. The order also prevents authorities from issuing warrants that confine state representatives, at the request of the governor and state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R).
The order, which expires in 14 days unless extended, lets runaway Democrats return home without being arrested according to the Texas Tribune.
In July, more than 50 Texas Democrats fled to Washington during a 30-day special legislative session. They did this in protest of an election reform bill because it allegedly restricts voting access.
Remaining members, mostly Republicans, voted to authorize a “call of the House” under which lawmakers are not permitted to leave without permission from the House speaker. They also asked the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms and other law enforcement officers to bring absent lawmakers back “under warrant of arrest, if necessary.”
Abbott authorized state police to arrest delinquent Democrats when they return to the Lone Star State, and transport them to the state Capitol building.
The governor recently called another 30-day special session to pass outstanding legislation.
“The ruling by the Travis County judge is contrary to the Texas Constitution, and violates the separation of powers between the different branches of government,” governor spokeswoman Renae Eze said according to the paper. “We are confident that this overstep will be overturned–Texas Democrats need to stop the charades and get back to work.”
The court will hear arguments on a temporary injunction on Aug. 20. Abbott and Phelan will try to demonstrate why the temporary injunction should not be filed against them.
In a different case 22 Democrats, who fled Texas, launched a separate lawsuit against GOP state officials for trying to force them to return to their home state.