Greg Abbott Challenge to Dallas Mask Mandate Heads to Texas Supreme Court

The Texas Supreme Court has been asked to rule on a mask mandate in Dallas County after an appeals court ruled against Governor Greg Abbott's challenge to the requirement.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who is the chief elected official of that county, instituted a face mask mandate because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and it took effect on Wednesday at 11.59 pm.

Abbott, a Republican, issued an executive order - GA 38 - last month that banned local government in the state from imposing mask mandates and threatened fines of up to $1,000 for local government institutions and officials who try to impose a mask requirement.

Jenkins filed a temporary restraining order and declaratory judgment on Abbott's executive order on August 9 "seeking to hold portions of GA 38 regarding mask mandates unenforceable."

On August 10, 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker ruled in favor of Jenkins, and on August 11, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a mandamus petition to the 5th Court of Appeals in an effort to win an emergency stay of Jenkins' mask mandate.

However, the 5th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jenkins on Friday, citing the Texas Disaster Act. The court said: "The Governor's power to suspend certain laws and rules [...] does not include the power to suspend the Act's grant of authority to mayors and county judges to declare and manage local disasters."

Paxton immediately filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which consists entirely of Republicans. A majority of the judges on the 5th Court of Appeals are Democrats.

Today, the Court of Appeals ruled against @GovAbbott request for an emergency stay of Judge Tonya Parker’s order earlier this week. We should all be together;Team Human v Virus. I’ll keep following the doctor’s advise and work with anyone to beat #COVID19

— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) August 14, 2021

The temporary restraining order against Abbott's executive order will expire on August 24. Jenkins' mask mandate requires all child care centers, public schools from pre-K to 12th grade, public universities and colleges, and businesses that provide services to the public to create a health and safety policy that involves requiring masks.

In his filing with the state's supreme court, Paxton argued that in an emergency, the governor's order overrides that of a county judge.

"The Texas Disaster Act of 1975 definitively makes the Governor the 'commander in chief' of the State's response to a disaster [...] and empowers him to issue executive orders that have the 'force and effect of law,'" Paxton wrote.

"Today, the Court of Appeals ruled against @GovAbbott request for an emergency stay of Judge Tonya Parker's order earlier this week," Jenkins tweeted after the appeals court ruling.

"We should all be together; Team Human v Virus. I'll keep following the doctor's advice and work with anyone to beat #COVID19," he said.

Newsweek has asked Governor Greg Abbott's office for comment.

Greg Abbott Speaks During a Press Conference
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference where he signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 at the Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has been asked to rule on Abbott's challenge to a mask mandate in Dallas County. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images