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Ridiculous Hotze lawsuit now in district court

We are all dumber by the mere existence of this.

The Texas Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Harris County’s stay-at-home order, though the legal fight is set to continue in state district court.

The Wednesday ruling came at the request of the suit’s plaintiffs, including longtime conservative activist Steve Hotze and the pastors of three Houston-area churches.

Earlier this week, Jared Woodfill, the group’s attorney, filed a new case in Harris County that similarly claims County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s stay-at-home order violates the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights because it allegedly continues to restrict church services even after Hidalgo revised it to align with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order deeming churches “essential businesses.”

The governor’s March 31 directive, akin to the stay-at-home orders issued by counties across Texas, came one day after anti-LGBTQ Republican activist Hotze and pastors Juan Bustamante, George Garcia and David Valdez filed a petition arguing that Harris County’s order violates the Constitution by ordering the closure of churches and failing to define gun shops as “essential” businesses.

The four original plaintiffs remain on the new lawsuit, and they are joined by Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader who represented a district in the Houston area until 2006. The plaintiffs also have challenged Montgomery County’s stay-at-home order in a different state district court.

[…]

Last Friday, Hidalgo revised her order to “permit in-person religious services that comply with the CDC’s guidelines,” according to a court filing by the county attorney’s office. The plaintiffs are continuing to challenge Hidalgo’s order in state district court, Woodfill said, in part because it imposes penalties — up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine — that Abbott’s does not.

Hidalgo’s amended order says: “Per the Texas Attorney General’s guidance on this topic, if religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, then religious services may be conducted in churches, congregations and houses of worship.”

Woodfill said he interprets that language to bar most churches from meeting in person, because most are capable of holding services remotely.

“Just about every church has the ability to do that,” Woodfill said. “Maybe there are some small churches that don’t. That doesn’t mean your parishioners have internet or the ability to access the service. We think that’s clearly government coming in to the church and issuing edicts and mandates that are an infringement on religious liberties.”

See here for the background. All this and Tom DeLay, too, because you can’t spell “stupid, evil, and corrupt” without Tom DeLay. Bear in mind, Hotze got what he wanted from Abbott’s executive order. It’s just that he’s special, so very special, and the rules of law and man don’t apply to him. I could sit here and spew invective at him all day, but what’s the point? He’s a sociopath, and this is what he does. If you get hurt as a result, that’s not his problem.

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4 Comments

  1. Wolfgang says:

    Perhaps some of the readers who are seasoned attorneys can weigh in on Hotze et al v. Lina Hidalgo.

    Having looked at the petition and exhibits (Cause No. 2020-22609, 281st District Court, Harris County), it seems to me that there are several serious problems:

    (1) Do the plaintiffs even have standing? Hotze and the pastors complain that they are subject to criminal punishment for noncompliance but there is no evidence (whether via affidavit or documents) that any of them has been prosecuted, or been threatened with prosecution.

    (2) Violation of the Stay-at-Home Order is subject to criminal penalties. The Plaintiffs did not name the District Attorney as a defendant. Lina Hidalgo signed the challenged order as a county official/policymaker (exercising discretion in the public interest), but she is not the official enforcing it, nor does she have authority over the district attorney or any other enforcement agent/agency. At the minimum, it would appear that they would have the add the District Attorney as a necessary party.

    (3) Assuming that the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides a statutory basis for challenging any restriction of church services in the Stay-at-Home Order as amended, the same cannot be said of their complaint about restrictions on gun shops or any other for-profit business.

    (4) To the extent they are seeking money damages under the TRFRA, they have to first presented a notice of claim 60 days prior to bringing suit. See CPRC Sec. 110.006. NOTICE; RIGHT TO ACCOMMODATE. (a) A person may not bring an action to assert a claim under this chapter unless, 60 days before bringing the action, the person gives written notice to the government agency by certified mail, return receipt requested. Furthermore, what economic or other actual damages does/can Hotze suffer if he cannot attend in-person church services?

    (5) While the TRFRA authorizes declaratory and injunctive relief on an emergency basis, the plaintiffs have not even verified their combined petition and application for injunctive relief. Steven Hotze himself signed a half-page “DECLARATION” in lieu of an affidavit, the other plaintiffs made no statement under penalties of perjury at all. And even Hotze’s “DECLARATION” does not incorporate the petition & application for TRO by reference, leaving nearly all allegations contained in it unsworn.

    (6) To the extent the pastor plaintiffs have a claim to economic damages at all, they have not satisfied the 60-day notice requirement of the TRFRA (which cannot yet be satisfied b/c the challenged order was signed less than 30 days ago).

    (7) To the extent the pastor plaintiffs want injunctive relief, they have not sworn to the truth of the pleading or submitted coterminous affidavits. The petition itself avers that “one pastor Plaintiff was threatened with jail time and a fine” but does not even identify the pastor by name. The expert affidavit cannot and does not remedy this evidentiary void.

  2. Mainstream says:

    Wolfgang, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 132.001 authorizes a sworn declaration to substitute for a notarized sworn statement for Texas legal proceedings, although many lawyers do not take advantage of that simplicity.

  3. Wolfgang says:

    Update on Hotze v. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo as of 4/13/2029 end of day.
    So the TRO request was denied today. The order was signed by the judge designated for immediate matters (ancillary judge) and does not include an order for a temporary injunction hearing.
    Prior to the remote hearing at 10am, Woodfill had amended the petition twice and fixed the lack of a date in the Hotze Declaration. Two affidavits by two of the plaintiff were added to what originally were only four exhibits.
    Harris County filed an elaborate response raising numerous points and attached the exhibits from the prior Texas Supreme Court mandamus case. Inter alia, the County’s attorneys are arguing lack of jurisdiction (including lack of standing by the Plaintiffs), but that plea has not yet been set for hearing.
    CAUSE NUMBER AND CASE STYLE: 2020-22609 – HOTZE, STEVEN vs. HILDAGO, LINA (COUNTY JUDGE) (Court: 281st District Court) doc90221047 Order
    ORDER SIGNED DENYING TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER (Judge Daryl Moore) 04/13/202

  4. […] here and here for the background. The first couple of pages of the lawsuit can be seen in this Jasper Scherer […]