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State court rules El Paso County Judge’s Covid-19 shutdown order is valid; EPPD will now enforce it

EL PASO, Texas -- A state court has refused to halt El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego's recently mandated two-week shutdown of nonessential activities and businesses due to Covid-19 and the El Paso Police Department will now enforce it.

34th District Court Judge William Moody upheld the validity of the order, which for now remains in effect through Nov. 11, in a ruling delivered Friday.

As a result of the court ruling, the City of El Paso announced it would begin enforcing Samaniego's order immediately and increase staffing for compliance efforts.

“Now that Judge Moody has issued his court order deeming County Judge’s Order No. 13 to be in effect, our police officers will enforce the County Judge’s Order,” said City Attorney Karla Nieman.

Samaniego, speaking at a news conference, called the court's ruling "a great moral victory for our community, for our healthcare workers and for our first-responders whom take the brunt of our Covid-19 Crisis."

Moody cited historical precedent in making his decision. He noted that during the last major pandemic, the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, there were "various and different ways" the crisis was handled by individual cities and counties across Texas.

Each "developed their own unique responses to the deadly flu," Moody said, adding that local "orders varied depending on the severity of that deadly flu" in particular areas.

A group of restaurant operators and the Texas Attorney General's Office had asked Moody for a temporary injunction to stop the shutdown ordered by the county's top elected official.

Attorney General Ken Paxton had argued the order was illegal because it goes against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order to reopen businesses, while county officials maintained Samaniego had the authority to order the shutdown because the county is facing an emergency situation.

Paxton promised an appeal of Moody's decision.

“My office will immediately file an appeal with the Eighth Court of Appeals. Judge Samaniego’s unlawful order blatantly violates Gov. Abbott’s executive order. This oppression of the El Paso community must end,” Paxton said in a statement to ABC-7.

Below are the videos of Samaniego's entire press conference and Moody's ruling from the bench. (Editor's note: Officials indicated the court video is not considered part of the official record, but rather the judge's written ruling is.)

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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