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SCOTx confirms quorum-busting Dems can be arrested

I thought this had been settled already, but I guess not.

Texas House Democrats who refuse to show up to the state Capitol in their bid to prevent Republican lawmakers from passing a voting restrictions bill can be arrested and brought to the lower chamber, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The all-Republican court sided with Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan — and ordered a Travis County district judge to revoke his temporary restraining order blocking the civil arrest of Democratic lawmakers whose absences have denied the chamber the number of present members needed to move any legislation.

“The legal question before this Court concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members,” Justice Jimmy Blacklock wrote in the court’s opinion. “We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the TRO.”

The state Supreme Court already has blocked court rulings in Travis and Harris counties to shield the quorum-busting Democrats from arrest — but Tuesday’s ruling signified that it’s legal under the state Constitution for House leaders to compel members to be physically present in the House, even if it means their arrest.

See here and here for the background that I had. I feel like I must be missing another story or two, but there’s been so much news the past couple of weeks who can even tell? Anyway, to me the question remains will any law enforcement officer actually do this? It’s not just the arresting part, it’s the transporting them to Austin part. I know that things like “norms” and “precedent” are basically meaningless these days, and that we have all been experiencing too many things we once thought could never happen, but I still have a hard time believing this. One way or another, I guess we’ll find out.

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  1. Política comparada says:


    Suppose you have a two-party system in a foreign country. The dominant party controls the presidency and administration, the majority in the Legislature, and also has complete control of the highest court. The president has even hand-picked its members.

    Imagine that upon joint emergency request by the chief executive and the majority leader in the legislature, the partisan judiciary immediately approves a bid by their fellow-partisans to arrest politicians of the opposition party, and then follows up with a formal pronouncement to the effect that they could not only take their bodies and haul them to the chamber so as to end their boycott of the legislative process, but could also impose imprisonment as a punishment for what are clearly political acts; political acts in the form of omissions, actually.

    From a comparative politics perspective, it is disturbing to witness something like this unfolding in the Western World. This is the sort of thing associated with failures of democratic development in what used to be called the Third World, or the Global South.

    Now it’s more like a regression to the Old Wild West in America: Disputes get “solved” with force, not with negotiation, mutual accommodation, and compromise; and utilization of force is  celebrated as high constitutional principle, as also reflected in “constitutional carry” and stand-your-ground laws.

    Members of the ruling clique refuse to recognize that you cannot have a functioning democratic republic when you abuse your majority status and do your best through your conduct to convince the opposition that they no longer have a stake in the game, or even in being present, only to witness how the ruling party uses its power recklessly and without restraint to get and keep what it wants.


    Clearly, in Texas, the formal separation of powers has failed because all three and nominally independent branches of government have been captured by a single political faction, which is now proceeding to neuter the remaining opposition members in the legislature – the only institution of state government in which the minority party still has representation — and show them who is boss in an oligarchy.


    And if rounding up opposition legislators weren’t bad enough, it’s really only one prong of the overall strategy to transform Texas into an oppressive one-party regime in which one political party controls all levers of power in the so-called political branches and the courts are “gleichgeschaltet” and validate whatever they are doing with customized and self-serving jurisprudence. 


    The other component is the installation of Governor Greg Abbott as “Commander in Chief” in peacetime, misusing the Texas Disaster Act to establish dominance over local governments headed by the opposition party; consolidation of one-man control and a top-to-bottom chain-of-command not only over the state bureaucracy, but the machinery of local government as well. The latter includes counties, home-rule cities, and even school districts, which are being told by the ruling regime what they may and may not teach to comply with officially promulgated Lone Star state doctrine. 

  2. Bill Daniels says:


    How you don’t see the irony in your otherwise very well put together post is bewildering. Everything you described? It’s already happened! Look at all the Trump staffers, business associates, friends, etc. that have been set upon by the leftist controlled DoJ, and also by state attorney generals, like our homegirl Letitia in NY, who actually RAN a campaign on, I’m going to get Trump.

    So we’ve got a weaponized justice system persecuting Trump supporters, conservatives and populists, then we’ve got leftist backed street enforcers persecuting those same groups in the street, with full government protection.

    Everything you’re cautioning us about is already taking place, Wolf. Maybe you just didn’t notice, or didn’t care, because it’s your side that is flexing their power with their intimidation campaign.

  3. Kibitzer says:


    Bill, you are right in a sense. This Kibitzer would concur with the proposition that we are not looking at an imaginary dystopia. It has already happened, but there are important distinctions:

    Your modern-day brownshirts invaded the capitol building with paramilitary equipment while the Texas Lege-Dems merely stayed away from theirs in civil attire. No equivalence here. No violence either, except that the Lone Star Supremes have now affixed the seal of approval for physically taking the bodies of the opposition members from their homes or whereever they might be encountered within the jurisdiction. Bodies of non-violent dissidents, not insurrectionists, mind you.

    That’s what habeas corpus means now. Habeas corpus … as in … have the body, the corps, and have your way with them. And it’s all consonant with the letter of the law and in tune with the spirit of the framers. Or so Abbott’s Court would have us believe, harping in unison and chanelling Scalia and centenarians of historical understanders of how to deal with scofflaws.

    Let’s look what they acutally did here:

    They issued an emergency order at the behest of Abbott and Abbott’s man in the House of Represenatives to remove an obstacle to the arrest of the opposition figures. And they gave in to the imperative to do so immediately lest the State suffer irreparable sovereign injury. – Huh?

    What is the harm in having Lege-Dems on the loose for a few more days? And how is it that the Sovereign suffers from such a brief delay, given that the specialty red-meat session is still on track, and given that the Sovereign has already committed himself to calling as many additional sessions as might be needed to get his legislative will transformed into law?

    And then the Supremes finished off the project with an opinion yesterday that imbues the move on the opposition party with the aura and sanctity in the form of a jurisprudential pronouncement that will serve as a guiding light for the future. The gist: If you hold the majority position, it’s okay for you to use physical force against your political opponents.

    So, while Bill’s purported patriots in Washington went on a rampage and attempted a beer hall putsch that failed, what we are witnessing under the Lone Star firmament is a GOP selfcoup progressing with all deliberate speed. And seemingly by legal means.

    A veritable Machtergreifung, history buffs might say.

    Except that the would-be Commander in Chief of all matters civil has been on the throne for years, and that his Court has just now annointed him and blessed his use of violence (“physical compulsion”) against those who would oppose and resist him as he aggregates more and more power to himself and comports himself like a bully.

    It’s no accident that the name of this democracy-shattering supreme court case is


    And it’s no accident that the flurry of cases in which AG Paxton would have Abbott’s Court formally declare the Governor Commander in Chief over the local Democrat-run local governments are also denominated In re Abbott.

    The paralles are eerie: I am the State. It’s all about me.

    And it’s all my “state business” as provided for in the Disaster Act once I declare my state a disaster.

    What we are looking at here is a judically enabled consolidation of power in the hands of a single man who is already in power. It’s an autogolpe reminiscent of Fujimori in Peru. With the apex of the judicial branch and an independently elected General playing prominent roles as enablers, which gives this particular episode of the failure of a democratics system of government a special twist.


    Judicial branch of the Texas GOP formally approves bid by GOP Governor and GOP Speaker to arrest opposition Democrats; signals legality and propriety of imprisonment as punishment for leaving the state to go to Washington DC to lobby Democrats in the U.S. Congress for federal legislation to protect voting rights.

    This should have been the biggest news story yesterday. Never mind the Taliban, whose spokesman was talking of amnesty — at least at the level of political rhetoric to reassure domestic and internatinoal audiences — rather than about rounding up opposition members and collaborators.

    Leaving that sort of macho tough talking to the leader of the Lone Star state.


    Didn’t some gadfly in this forum suggest as recently as last week that the Lege-Dems might want to nonsuit their case in the trial court, thereby mooting the case and preventing Abbott’s Court from issuing a fateful opinion? An opinion setting new precedent that would seal their fate and those of all others who would do alike and dare break quorum in the future?

    … What with the writing already ominously on the wall of the supreme court building?

  4. Bill Daniels says:


    You’re being disingenuous. Paramilitary?

    Number of guns held by the protestors: ZERO
    Number of guns fired by the protestors: ZERO
    Number of fires set by the protestors: ZERO
    Number of Congress critters, staffers, and Capitol Police killed: ZERO

    Number of guns held by the Capitol Police? Lots
    Number of guns fired by the Capitol Police? One
    Number of unarmed protestors murdered by the Capitol Police: ONE

    Remember how we were assured that Sicknick was murdered by the protestors? Remember the state funeral? Remember how the medical examiner’s report was held back to keep the lie going? Remember when it was finally, begrudgingly released, we all found out that Sicknick died of natural causes unrelated to the protest, but of course, the narrative and state funeral already were publicized. The retraction was at the bottom of page 27, below the article on the PTA bake sale.

    If that had been an actual armed crowd intent on an overthrow, there would have been actual bodies littering the Capitol, but there were none, because it was a protest. As to paramilitary, the rednecks on my block alone could source more guns than the protestors had, which is to say, more than none.

    Wolf, your debate skills are better than this; arguing an easily provable lie is beneath you. As to arresting the legislators, that’s entirely voluntary. They CHOSE to be legislators, and thus, chose to be bound by laws made specifically for them, in the same way Americans who join the military voluntarily agree to be governed by the UCMJ.

    Your argument basically is, Bill enlisted in the Army, then cheated on his wife, and is now butthurt because he’s been arrested for infidelity; Bill is a victim.

    No, Bill volunteered, then, knowing the consequences ahead of time, went ahead and cheated. Now Bill wants you to feel sorry for him? Do you feel sorry for Private Bill, Wolf?

    Personally, I want to see CCP Wu, my homegirl Senfronia, and the rest, arrested and held in the Capitol until the special session is over. Put some porta potties in the chamber, escort them out for showers every few days, maybe. And while I was holding them, I’d try to negotiate a hostage exchange, my 1/6 protestors for the legislators. What’s Senfronia worth? One racist, angry black woman? She should be worth 75-100 patriots all by herself, right?

  5. Kibitzer says:


    Bill: The proverbial hostages in the Texas Lege are the staffers for whose benefit our Oil, Gas, and Gridlock Commander in Chief has shut off the pipeline that delivers the green stuff that greases everthing: the liquid form of the Ben Franklins.

    Ms. Thompson doesn’t have to remain in Senfronistan. Bush Intercontinental remains open. Like all of her peers, she can just evacutate to D.C. again (assuming she has returned), though that has its personal and financial downsides, what with the Lege pay being so low, and the constitutional entitlement therefore not amounting to much.

    What with facing arrest for political reasons, perhaps she could flee to the German consulate (or embassy, in Washington) and make out a case for political asylum. It might help up the international ante.

    And as for the staffers/hostages, what’s the point of keeping them funded if the Lege is not allowed to engage in meaningful give-and-take policymaking?

    In any event, presumably the staffer’s employment is “at will” so they have no right to continued employment; nor any reasonable expectation under current political conditions. Sort’a like Afghan translators. Services no longer needed.

    Harsh as that may appear, they would have the Texas Supreme Court to blame for their lack of job security. That is, after all, the policymaking department that’s in charge of doctrine in general; at-will doctrine not excepted.

    As a matter of real politics (as distinguished from surpreme make-belief), the Supremes Lords of the Law take their cues from Command Abbott and General Paxton, of course.

    Or they can blame Abbott, who thwarted the entire Lege in regard to continuity-in-governance funding, in his official veto-casting capacity.

    There are always choices. Take your pick who to blame.

  6. Bill Daniels says:


    There are two legal concepts you are familiar with….comparative negligence, and the duty to mitigate losses. If a hoodlum breaks your car window, you’re supposed to at least cover it with plastic to keep the rain out and incur even more damage.

    In the case of the legislature, they’re supposed to show up and pass a veto proof bill to restore funding. They aren’t doing it, they both have comparative negligence AND are failing to mitigate the damages.

  7. Kibitzer says:


    This is a tort concept. Completely different area of law. Has nothing to do with how elected officials do their jobs, or how they should represent their constituents.

    Nor with public law in general.

    Also see Chapter 33 of the CPRC titled: PROPORTIONATE RESPONSIBILITY.

    For tort claims against governmental defendants, see TEXAS TORT CLAIMS ACT and related judicial decisions.


    Also, if you look that Abbott’s tweet of 8/9/2021 about Dems needing to come back to work, it is clear that he wants to dictate to them.

    Greg Abbott: “House Dems must get back to work & pass these & other items that Texans demand & deserve.”

    Note the definite article “these”. The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular.

    So, the Commander in Chief would compel the Lege Dems not only to show up to assure a quorum, but pass what he has put on the special session agenda. If he only he could.

    At least his Court has backed him up on his threat that the fugitives would be arrested upon their return to the state, so as to assure a quorum that will get his pet projects enacted into law with Republican votes only.