AUGUST 20, 2021
THE SOUTHERN CENTER AND THE STATE OF TEXAS
OWE THE TEXAS SUPREME COURT A DEBT OF GRATITUDE
MANCHACA, TEXAS. Last night, the Texas Supreme Court denied Attorney General Ken Paxton's effort to quash the statewide restraining order against implementation of the Governor's anti-mask mandate in Texas public schools. On Friday, August 13, 2021, Judge Jan Soifer of the 345th District Court for the County of Travis (think: ATX) issued a statewide restraining order at the request of The Southern Center for Child Advocacy. The Attorney General's Office immediately appealed Judge Soifer's order to the Texas Supreme Court. In its request for a statewide temporary restraining order, The Southern Center submitted affidavits from over 40 parents from across Texas whose children had been, and would continue to be injured, by the Governor's anti-mask mandate if implementation of Executive Order GA 38 - the State's anti-mask mandate - was not restrained. The cascade of affidavits was coordinated by Liz Rivera, Patricia Avitia and Val Hester, whose sworn statement appears first on the stack of pleas from parents across Texas. These women and thousands of others are members of a statewide network of often first-time parent advocates who came together out of concern about the Governor's anti-mask mandate and its impact on the most vulnerable children of Texas - children under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination. The effort was also supported by the affidavits of a renown state expert in epidemiology Dr. Catherine Troisi and Dr. Joan Altobelli - a revered and trusted public educator and program leader with a 40+ year career serving children in the schools of central Texas.
Unfortunately misleading headlines and misinformation in the corporate press and on partisan news sites have confused the public about the intent and effect of the statewide order restraining the Governor's anti-mask mandate. Even tonight, just moments after Mr. Paxton's request for relief was denied, several statewide newsblogs erroneously reported that the appeal from the Attorney General's Office was denied on a technicality. The Southern Center reached out in an effort to offer an alternative to the State's perspective. Counsel for The Southern Center explained: "You can go to the Texas Supreme Court directly from the Travis County District Court on an extraordinary writ - Mr. Paxton's just wasn't that extraordinary."
Counsel continued, "By not commenting on the merits of Mr. Paxton's mandamus petition and directing Mr. Paxton to seek relief in a lower court, the Texas Supreme Court was being gracious in a turbulent period when there is such angst and anger on all sides of the mask issue. Everyone needs to take a deep breath. The law of the land regarding face covering requirements in Texas independent school districts is set out in the statewide order issued by Judge Soifer who sits in a court in the capital city with jurisdiction to hear cases with statewide impact. Until a court rules otherwise or our temporary restraining order expires 14 days from Sunday, August 15th when it was issued, school districts can develop face covering requirements despite the naughty list created by the Attorney General's Office. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you some land south of Galveston."
The Texas Supreme Court blocked the temporary restraining orders (TRO) obtained in Dallas and San Antonio prior to the decision on Thursday. Those cases were on a similar appeal track as the TROs sustained by the Court in case file by The Southern Center. The difference is that The Southern Center's TRO, as well as the local TROs for several schools in the RioGrande Valley and Harris County in Houston, was not stayed.
The bottomline in the simplest terms: Judge Soifer restrained Executive Order 38 as to face coverings in all Texas independent school districts. Mr. Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court for the extraordinary relief of staying the order of a district court. Mr. Paxton's request for emergency relief was denied, and the high Court reminded the Attorney General's Office that it could appeal the decision on the merits in the district court to the appropriate next-level appellate court. Even if Mr. Paxton cleared that hurdle, the Texas Supreme Court's decision today did not signal that the outcome on Mr. Paxton's next run at the Court would be different.
The Southern Center's hearing on the merits of its request for a temporary injunction in D-1-GN-21-003792, The Southern Center v. Abbott, in the 345th Judicial District for Travis County - the next step in the district court civil process - is presently scheduled for August 25, 2021, at 9:30 AM and will be streamed online.
The Southern Center was the only organization to obtain a statewide injunction against implementation of the Governor's anti-mask mandate in Texas public schools. Mr. Paxton points this out in his legal brief to the Texas Supreme Court attempting to stay Judge Soifer's order. The state's highest court declined to hear either Mr. Paxton's request for emergency relief or his petition on appeal.