Sending a woman to jail for keeping her hair salon open against orders, while at the same time real criminals are being released to protect them against the CCP Virus (coronavirus) is a complete travesty of justice.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to urge a Dallas judge to set free Shelley Luther, jailed on Tuesday after she had refused to apologize for keeping her hair salon open against the imposed restrictions. Luther had refused to close her salon for a week, and the restrictions were set to be lifted on businesses Friday, May 8.
“In light of the foregoing, your actions abused your discretion in holding Ms. Luther in contempt and ordering her to jail in a civil court proceeding,” Paxton said. “For these reasons, the Court should immediately reconsider its order and release Ms. Luther from confinement.”
Paxton addressed Dallas County State District Judge Eric Moyé, noting that he had abused his discretion. He stressed that Luther had the wellbeing of her staff at heart, and emphasized that the woman was keeping her business open for her and staff to put food on the table for their families.
“As a mother, Ms. Luther wanted to feed her children,” Paxton said in his letter. “As a small business owner, she wanted to help her employees feed their children. Needless to say, these are laudable goals that warrant the exercise of enforcement discretion.”
The judge gave Luther three options: she could apologize for being selfish, pay a fine, and keep her business closed until Friday, May 8, or go to jail.
Shelley Luther should immediately be released from jail. Locking her up is a misguided abuse of power, especially considering Dallas County released real criminals to “protect them from COVID-19.”
Release her now so she can return to her family. pic.twitter.com/67KrhQBEyf
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 6, 2020
“I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish,” Luther told the judge. “I have hairstylists that are going hungry because they would rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision. But I am not going to shut the salon.”
Gov. Greg Abbott’s order was aimed at slowing the spread of the CCP Virus, however, on Wednesday he took sides with Luther.
“I join the attorney general in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas judge, putting Shelley Luther in jail for seven days,” Abbott said. “As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for noncompliance with executive orders should always be the last available option. Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”
Later Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick vowed to pay her fines—$500 for each day the salon was open—and volunteered to go under house arrest on the condition she be freed.
Patrick tweeted: “7 days in jail, no bail and a $7K fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7K fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under House Arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids.”
7 days in jail, no bail and a $7K fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7K fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under House Arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids. #txlege #TexansHelpingTexans https://t.co/gdtMLAHFV5
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 6, 2020
The reprimand to Luther’s resistance to close her salon followed on the heels of two Republican lawmakers from Texas who got illegal haircuts at a different salon, in protest for hair salons and barbershops not being part of the governor’s initial plan for businesses to reopen.
“Hairstylists and the cosmetology industry don’t have a lot of lobbyists in the Capitol advocating for them, whereas maybe the big-box stores and large restaurant chains do and sadly they were overlooked when this should have been an industry that was opened first, because of how regulated they are and the health standards they have to comply with,” state Rep. Briscoe Cain said, according to Fox 26 Houston. He was joined by Rep. Steve Toth in a defiant act of civil disobedience.
Abbott announced shortly after the two men had their trim that hair salons, barbershops, and tanning salons could open on Friday, with strict social distancing to be observed.