A Dallas County court has stepped into the dispute between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and has temporarily shut down the governor’s anti-mask mandate in Dallas County.
In granting a temporary restraining order requested by Judge Jenkins, Dallas County District Court Judge Tonya Parker wrote, “Judge Jenkins and the citizens of Dallas County…will continue to be damaged and injured by Governor Abbott’s conduct.”
That damage, argued lawyers for Judge Jenkins, is embodied in Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits local officials, such as Judge Jenkins, from requiring mask-wearing in response to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
“No way stopping a mask mandate can be deemed necessary action to cope with a disaster,” Doug Alexander of Alexander Dubose & Jefferson argued during a hearing on the restraining order.
“We’re gratified that Judge Parker appreciates that this is a matter of life and death,” said Charla Aldous of Aldous\Walker, who along with law partner Brent Walker, also represents Judge Jenkins. “Look around. On this matter, Governor Abbott is out of step.”
“Residents of Dallas County and citizens across this state want their local disaster experts to protect them to the very best of their ability,” Mr. Walker said. “Now, Dallas County Judge Jenkins working with scientific experts can do his job. If that means taking additional steps to battle the Delta variant as it spreads throughout the county, we can rely on his good judgment to do so.”
“This ruling vindicates Judge Jenkins’s actions and makes clear that he is placing the public health interests of Dallas County first,” said Sean McCaffity of Sommerman, McCaffity, Quesada, & Geisler. “The science is clear that masks can be effective and the data is clear that now is not the time to move backwards in the face of surging infections.”
The temporary restraining order is the first step in a legal fight Judge Jenkins launched August 9. The legal claim is also asking that the court declare that Judge Jenkins has the statutory authority to manage the county’s response to Covid-19, including mandating face coverings.
“Government closest to the people should make decisions on how best to keep students and others safe. I’ll do all that I can to protect the public health and the people of Dallas County,” Jenkins said.
The case is J.J. Koch v. Clay Jenkins, v. Greg Abbott,Cause No. DC-21-10101 in the 116th Judicial District Court in Dallas County.