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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HOUSTON (April 23, 2020) – Following a district court’s decision to halt enforcement of Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order, GA-13—an order prohibiting the release of certain individuals from jail on personal bond—the Texas Supreme Court today found that plaintiff judges have not been harmed by the order and therefore cannot sue to block it. The Supreme Court has directed the district court to withdraw its temporary restraining order, and the case now goes back to the district court for further proceedings. 

Notably, the Court also held that “the Constitution is not suspended when the government declares a state of disaster. Nor do constitutional limitations on the jurisdiction of courts cease to exist.”

The following reaction is from:

Arthur Ago, director of the Criminal Justice Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said:

“The Texas Supreme Court made clear that Governor Abbott’s executive order has serious constitutional flaws. We will be returning to the District Court to address the technical issues that the Supreme Court ruled on. Once there, we are confident that the District Court will reaffirm its previous ruling that the order was illegal. Our position remains the same: the order does nothing to protect the public. More importantly, it exacerbates the dangers of COVID 19 in Texas jails and prisons, placing poor incarcerated people and corrections employees—a disproportionate number of whom are African American—at unnecessary risk. We are confident that the District Court will once again reach the same conclusion.”

Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said:

“It’s eminently clear that the Governor overstepped his authority by trying to take over the role of independent judges. Importantly, the court found that neither the Governor nor the Attorney General has any teeth by which to enforce this Executive Order, and that prosecuting judges for following the Constitution would raise serious problems. The Governor should heed the advice from both sides of the aisle and rescind this misguided Executive Order.”

Amanda Woog, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project, said:

“Today, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed that Texas judges must continue to follow the Texas Constitution during this crisis. The governor’s executive order is illegal and unconstitutional, and the Texas Supreme Court made clear that the governor and the attorney general should not enforce it. Judges should continue to abide by the constitution in their courtrooms, including by disregarding the executive order. We will continue to fight to have the merits of this case decided in the courts.”

A copy of the Texas Supreme Court’s opinion is available here.

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