A judge ruled in favor of Texas Democrats who fled the state last month to block a Republican-backed voting law, blocking Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and other officials from arresting the lawmakers.
State District Judge Brad Urrutia, a Democrat, signed the order on Aug. 8, issuing an injunction that prevents Phelan, a Republican, from arresting and detaining the Democrats. Dozens of lawmakers last month fled the state and went to Washington to protest the law by denying Republicans a quorum, which was needed to start the legislative session.
The order prevents Phelan, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Texas Department of Public Safety from “detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,” and it also prevents them from “issuing warrants or other instruments demanding the detention, confinement or other restriction of a Texas House Democrat’s movement.”
Texas law, Urrutia ruled, doesn’t “provide for the physical confinement of lawmakers who have committed no crime.”
The order, however, will expire in 14 days unless it is extended.
Republican leaders will have a chance to fight the temporary restraining order in an court hearing, local media reported.
Republican state Rep. Jim Murphy, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, told news outlets over the weekend that he believed that more Democrats would be returning to Austin in the coming days.
“People are talking to their friends, and we think we’re going to see quite a few more,” he said.
While in Washington, the Texas Democrats never met with President Joe Biden. The group was quickly forced to change some plans after several of its members tested positive for COVID-19. Reports that two of the Democrats then went to Europe also led to bad headlines and invited mockery from Republicans back home.
Late last week, Abbott signed an order for a new special legislative session that’s intended to pass the voting measure.
“I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve,” Abbott said in a statement on Aug. 5. “Passing these Special Session agenda items will chart a course towards a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State.”
Democrats have argued that the GOP-backed voting overhaul bill would unfairly target minority groups in the Lone Star State, while Republicans have said the measure is needed to safeguard future elections and would restore the public’s confidence in them.
The Epoch Times has contacted Phelan’s office for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.