Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has filed suit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, saying the governor exceeded his authority when he issued an order prohibiting Jenkins and county judges like him from requiring people to wear masks as a means to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Judge Jenkins filed against Gov. Abbott as part of his response to a lawsuit filed last week by Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch. Commissioner Koch sued Judge Jenkins after the judge had Koch removed from a Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting for refusing to wear a mask.
In his filing, Judge Jenkins points to the rise of the Delta Variant, the start of the school year and the fact there is no vaccine for children. Making the danger all the more real, Judge Jenkins says, is Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, which among other things, prohibits county officials and school districts from imposing mask mandates to fight the spread of the virus.
“This is a recipe for exploding community transmission of the Delta Variant as it races through schools and children take it home to their families,” the filing says.
The legal claim asks that the court declare that Judge Jenkins has the statutory authority to manage the county’s response to Covid-19, including mandating face coverings. Judge Jenkins is also seeking a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction to maintain the status quo, allowing him to continue protecting the citizens of Dallas County.
“I have made a career of defending the little guy and in this case, Judge Jenkins is the little guy whose statutory authority is being trampled by the governor’s overreach,” said Charla Aldous of the Aldous\Walker law firm, who along with firm partner Brent Walker and attorneys Tiffany Standly and Caleb Miller represent Judge Jenkins. “This is the right thing to do – plain and simple.”
“If you think about it, Judge Jenkins, as the local official on the ground in Dallas County has the best understanding of what’s going on in his jurisdiction and what people here need – not the governor,” said Mr. Walker. “That’s one reason the statute provides county judges this authority. We seek only to maintain what is in the statute.”
In court documents, Judge Jenkins highlights the contradiction that in prior executive orders GA-29, GA-34 and GA-36, the governor affirmed the value of face coverings in combatting COVID-19.
The case is J.J. Koch v. Clay Jenkins, v. Greg Abbott, Case No. DC-21-10101 in the 116th Judicial District Court in Dallas County.