EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso County Attorney Friday night issued a legal opinion in defense of County Judge Ricardo Samaniego's controversial non-essential business shutdown order to combat the spread of coronavirus, and she flatly disputed contentions by the city's mayor and the state attorney general that the decree was invalid.
County Attorney JoAnne Bernal said Texas law plainly and clearly gives county judges independent ability to issue orders in the handling of local disasters that threaten lives, allowing them to control the movement of people and the occupancy of premises.
Instead, Bernal said lawmakers limited the governor's power solely to suspend state regulatory statutes, which doesn't include judge's orders. She added that legislators made clear that county judges outrank mayors, who must comply with a judge's emergency directives.
The question of whose legal interpretation is correct will likely be decided in court as the attorney general joined a group of local business owners in filing suit against Samaniego on Friday seeking to have his order formally overturned.
You can read the county attorney's entire opinion below.