Former legislator, others sue Abbott over face-covering order

A former state legislator and a former chairman of the Republican party, along with several other plaintiffs, have sued Gov. Greg Abbott for what they claim is another unconstitutional executive order, this time mandating that all Texans wear face coverings.

The lawsuit challenges Abbott’s July 2 Executive Order GA-29, which mandates: “every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person who is not in the same household.”

The order comes with a first-strike warning, followed by punitive fines for subsequent offenses of $250, and potential jail time for not paying the fine.

Abbot said he issued the order because of a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The petition asks the judge for an emergency temporary restraining order, a temporary injunction, and a permanent injunction.

“This draconian order is contrary to the Texas spirit and invades the liberties the people of Texas protected in the constitution,” the petition states. “If the courts allow this invasion of liberty, today’s circumstances will set a precedent for the future, forever weakening the protections Texans sacrificed to protect.”

Plaintiffs Dr. Steven Hotze of Houston-based Hotze Health and Wellness Center, Al Hartman of Harman Income REIT, Norman Adams of Adams Insurance, former state Rep. Rick Green, and former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, Cathie Adams, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Travis County. They are represented by Jared Woodfill, CEO of Houston-based Woodfill Law Firm.

The complaint states that because viruses mutate, there might be a different coronavirus strain, or some other contagion, later this year, next year or at any other point in time. Vaccines are no guarantee to protect against varying strains of viruses, including the flu and the coronavirus, the plaintiffs argue.

Furthermore, the science behind wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is uncertain, and that medical literature suggests that wearing face coverings can be harmful, they add.

“Will we allow GA-29 to set precedent for future governmental remedies to viruses or diseases?” they ask. “Will it be a little easier to force people to wear certain items or not act in government-disapproved activities on pain of criminal sanctions?”

If granted, a temporary restraining order would prevent GA-29 from taking effect until a hearing may be held on a temporary injunction.

The governor’s order is unconstitutional, the plaintiffs argue, because “Only the Legislature can exercise law-making power, subject to restrictions imposed by the constitution.”

The order violates the due process rights of the plaintiffs, and all Texans, and their right to move freely, the plaintiffs argue: “Freedom from confinement is a liberty interest entitled to due process protection.” Texans have a liberty interest in their ability to move freely, which means they are entitled to due process protection.

“GA-29 has deprived Texans of the right to be free of confinement without providing Plaintiffs a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” the complaint states.

Within days of the order being announced, the Ector County Republican Party passed a censure resolution against the governor and the Harrison County Republican Party unanimously passed a resolution citing abuses of executive authority.

The Harrison County Republican Party resolution states that it “hereby censures Governor Greg Abbott for violating three (3) or more of the core principles of the Republican Party Platform, we request the censure be considered and sustained by the delegates of the 2020 Republican Party State Convention.”

Several other counties are expected to pass similar resolutions, according to Texas Scorecard, ahead of the Republican Party state convention scheduled for July. The convention, originally scheduled to be held in Houston, is now being held virtually online.



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