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Texas Supreme Court Rules Dems Who Break Quorum Can Be Arrested

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that House Democrats who refuse to show up for the Legislature can be detained by law enforcement and brought back to the state Capitol.

“The Supreme Court of Texas swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do,” said Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman.

“We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats,” Eze added.

The Statesman reported:

Responding to an emergency motion filed hours earlier, the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked an Austin district judge’s order that prohibited the arrest of Democrats participating in the ongoing quorum break.

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Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, represented by Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued that state District Judge Brad Urrutia’s order improperly stopped them from exercising authority specifically granted by the Texas Constitution.

“Compelling the attendance of its members is a prerogative given to the House by the Texas Constitution,” the petition said.

The appeal asked the all-Republican Supreme Court to overturn the order by Urrutia, a Democrat, before 5 p.m. Tuesday, noting that the second special session is ongoing and the “House Democrats’ return to Texas is imminent.” Abbott and Phelan also said Uruttia’s plan to hold an Aug. 20 hearing on the matter would come too late in a special session that can run no later than Sept. 5.

In response, the state’s highest civil court blocked enforcement of Urrutia’s order while justices weighed the legal issues. The House Democrats were given until 4 p.m. to file a response.

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The ruling from the state’s highest court comes one day after a Democrat judge in Travis County, Texas, issued a mind-blowing order protecting the Texas Democrats who fled the state last month to avoid having to vote on election integrity bills.

State District Judge Brad Urrutia has blocked the arrest of the Texas House Democrats, paving the way for those who remain outside of Texas to return home without the threat of apprehension.

Urrutia granted a temporary restraining order filed by the Democrats that will restrict Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan from “detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting” the free movement of House Democrats within the state or issuing any warrants ordering their confinement.

The Texas Tribune reported:

The order expires in 14 days unless extended by Urrutia. The court will hear arguments on a temporary injunction on Aug. 20, and Abbott and Phelan must show why a temporary injunction should not be filed against them.

In July, more than 50 House Democrats decamped to Washington, D.C., during a 30-day specially called legislative session to block the passage of an elections bill they said would restrict voting access.

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The remaining members in the chamber, mostly Republicans, voted to authorize a “call of the House” under which all entrances into the chamber can be locked and lawmakers are not permitted to leave without permission from the speaker.

The report added:

They also asked the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms and other law enforcement officers to bring the missing lawmakers back “under warrant of arrest if necessary.”

Abbott had called for the arrest of the Democratic lawmakers as soon as they returned to the state, and Phelan signed a civil warrant for Rep. Philip Cortez after he returned to Austin from Washington in July only to leave the state capitol again a few days later.

Recently, Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dade Phelan signed a civil warrant for Cortez’s arrest.

Phelan wrote:

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To the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, or any officer appointed by him: you are hereby commanded to take The Honorable Philip Cortez, a Member of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, who is now absent from the House, wherever said Member may be found in the State, into your custody and safekeeping and bring said Member before the bar of the House instanter, this writ being issued under a duly-adopted order of the House pursuant to Article III, Section 10, Texas Constitution, made in exercise of its lawful powers to compel the attendance of absent members in the manner provided under the House Rules of Procedure. Herein fail not, but make due return hereof to this House.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott took a hardline approach with Democrats who have fled the state.

When he appeared on Fox News on Monday night, the Texas governor said the Democrats who fled the state will be arrested when they return.

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