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Gov. Abbott Asks Texas Supreme Court To Cancel San Antonio’s Injunction Against Him Over Mask Mandate

Will Burney

Texas Governor Greg Abbott filed a motion Monday asking the Supreme Court of Texas to stay a temporary injunction against him. He also wants a court order cancelling the injunction.

If granted, the move would mean local officials could be penalized for passing mask mandates.

San Antonio and Bexar County successfully argued for an injunction against the state's ban on government mask mandates last week. They argued the current situation would prove irreparably harmful from “unmitigated spread” of COVID-19 if schools opened without mask mandates.

On Monday, the attorney general's office filed for a stay nullifying the injunction, arguing that the irreparable harm was actually being caused by the growing list of local orders in defiance of the governor's order banning mask mandates, “as it is enabling numerous municipalities to issue different responses to the disaster,” according to the filing. “And the Governor lacks an adequate remedy by appeal. Every moment the temporary injunction remains in effect, localities will continue to flout GA-38.”

The governor’s order “GA-38” suspends aspects of health and human service law using the Texas Disaster Act.

The injunction bars enforcement of penalties against local government officials, like a $1,000 fine for officials who fail to comply.

On Monday there were 13,346 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals, according to the Department of State Health Services. That is nearly as much as the highest level of the worst spike thus far in COVID cases. Many hospitals across Texas have run out of intensive care unit beds.

The state asked for a Supreme court order, saying the 4th court of appeals had "abused" its discretion by continuing the injunction after it was appealed.

“The sovereign (the state) would be impotent to ‘enforce its own laws’ if it could not temporarily enjoin those breaking them pending trial,” the court documents read.

They argued this is especially true now during a fluid situation where so many local governments are “flouting” the governor’s order.

Last week San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia in an interview with TPR said the Texas Disaster Act authorizes the governor to coordinate disaster response, not to bar local governments from doing it in the face of state abdication.

“Imagine if you have a category five (hurricane) going toward the Texas coast,” Segovia said, “and the Texas Governor issues an order that simply says local entities cannot issue curfews or evacuation orders, because it's a personal choice as to whether you stay in your home or not. That's essentially where we're at with COVID.”

The Supreme Court of Texas authorized two prior stays against Temporary Restraining Orders granted to Bexar and Dallas counties over mask mandates. It denied the state stays in three more filed in a district court in Travis County, saying the state hadn’t filed correctly.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org