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A Travis County State District Judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the arrest of House Democrats who broke the quorum by leaving the state, clearing the way for those who remain outside Texas to return home without threat of arrest.
State District Judge Brad Urrutia, a Democrat, on Sunday evening signed the order barring Governor Greg Abbott and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan from “holding, containing or otherwise restricting” the free movement of House Democrats in the state or to issue warrants ordering their detention.
The order expires in 14 days unless it is extended by Urrutia. The court will hear arguments over a temporary injunction on August 20 where Abbott and Phelan must show why a temporary injunction should not be filed against them.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 19 House Democrats by attorneys Sam Bassett, Jeremy Monthy and Megan Rue.
This is the second lawsuit filed by House Democrats in an attempt to avoid arrest if they returned to Texas. The other was filed by attorney Craig Washington in federal court in Austin on behalf of 22 House Democrats. It was riddled with problems, including subsequent statements from at least four of the plaintiffs that they had not authorized the lawsuit on their behalf.
The trial in federal court also included state representative James White, R-Hilister, as a defendant. White is not named as a defendant in the state court case.
In July, more than 50 House Democrats left the state in a 30-day legislative session specially called to block passage of an electoral bill they said would restrict access to the vote . The remaining chamber members voted to allow a “House appeal” under which all entrances to the chamber can be locked and lawmakers are not allowed to leave without permission from the president. They also called on the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms and other law enforcement officials to bring back the missing lawmakers “under arrest warrant if necessary.”
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