AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego “failed to do his job” and claimed is “now illegally shutting” down businesses.
The governor issued a scathing statement criticizing the county judge’s recent shutdown order on the eve of an important court hearing on a temporary injunction sought by 10 El Paso restaurant operators and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The hearing will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday before state 34th District Court Judge William Moody.
“At a press conference on Oct. 25, the county judge made clear that he had not been enforcing existing protocols allowed under law, despite the fact that these protocols are effective strategies to contain Covid-19 while allowing the businesses to stay open,” Abbott said in his statement.
“He failed to do his job and is now illegally shutting down entire businesses which will cause further harm to El Pasoans who are already suffering economically due to the pandemic,” Abbott continued.
“These protocols proved effective to slow the spread over the summer and will work now, but only if they are enforced,” Abbott said.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton said an injunction “would provide much needed relief for the people and businesses of El Paso, as the burdensome order includes strictly limiting travel and shutting down all non-essential services including in-person dining, gyms and salons.”
Paxton added that Samaniego “has no authority to flout Gov. Abbott’s executive orders by shutting down businesses in El Paso County.”
Samaniego said he issued the shutdown order of nonessential businesses to combat a surge of Covid-19 that has left Borderland hospitals are or near capacity and have strained medical staffs.
The county judge maintains, backed by a legal opinion from the county attorney that he has independent authority to act that doesn't require the governor's approval.