More injunctions against the mask mandate bans

Keep ’em coming.

Concluding that Gov. Greg Abbott exceeded his authority by banning mask mandates in Texas, an Austin judge ruled Friday that school districts in Travis County can enforce face coverings as a COVID-19 precaution.

State District Judge Catherine Mauzy’s order also applied to 19 school districts that represent about 1 million students — including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and Houston — as well as Austin Community College, which also sued Abbott.

However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly appealed, automatically blocking enforcement of Mauzy’s temporary injunction — though the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals can be asked to reinstate the judge’s order while Paxton’s challenge proceeds.

In her ruling, Mauzy concluded Abbott’s ban on mandatory masks — contained in a July 29 executive order — was unlawful and exceeded his authority in violation of the Texas Constitution.

Mauzy found that the school officials and parents who challenged Abbott’s order made “a sufficient showing” to establish that Abbott was not authorized to declare “by executive fiat” that school districts are prohibited from requiring masks to be worn.

Without court intervention, Mauzy added, Abbott’s ban leaves school officials unable to mandate masks to control the spread of COVID-19, “which threatens to overwhelm public schools and could result in more extreme measures such as the school closures that have already begun in several Texas school districts.”

In a separate ruling, Mauzy also granted an injunction sought by Harris County to allow a mask mandate to continue for Houston-area school districts, said Christian Menefee, county attorney.

“Gov. Abbott is misusing the Texas Disaster Act to make this pandemic worse,” Menefee said, calling the ruling an important step in reining in the governor.

But in a third challenge, the judge declined to issue a statewide injunction, requested by the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, that would have allowed mask mandates in all Texas school districts. Mauzy’s one-page order gave no reason for the denial.

It’s hard to keep track of all of these, but see here for the original ruling in the Harris County case, and here for the original ruling in the SCCA case; the filing of their lawsuit was noted here. I have so many of these posts, some of which combine stories from multiple lawsuits, so I can’t find (and may not have) a post about the original Austin lawsuit, but the famous SCOTx demurral of the emergency request by Paxton and Abbott to block a TRO was related to the Austin/Travis County lawsuit. I note that the Harris County case and the SCCA case were originally in Judge Jan Soifer’s courtroom, so I am assuming that a bunch of similar lawsuits were combined into one and that’s how they all wound up before Judge Mauzy.

The injunction may be on hold because of the appeal (there’s some fancy legal term for this that I have encountered before but forgotten by now), but the plaintiffs can and surely will ask for it to be reinstated by the Third Court of Appeals. That will force another reckoning with the Supreme Court, thanks to the recent order in the Bexar County case. In a sense all of this is just sound and fury since Abbott and Paxton can’t enforce the mask mandate bans anyway, but the ritual must be observed. I feel like I should get a CLE credit for all of this blogging. HISD Superintendent Millard House’s statement about the ruling is here, and KXAN and the Trib have more.

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3 Responses to More injunctions against the mask mandate bans

  1. policywonqueria says:


    Re: “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly appealed, automatically blocking enforcement of Mauzy’s temporary injunction — though the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals can be asked to reinstate the judge’s order while Paxton’s challenge proceeds.”

    Interestingly, the trial court’s docket doesn’t reflect that the AG filed a notice of appeal, nor has one been docketed in the Third Court of Appeals. Go figure. The clerk’s online docket for D-1-GN-21-003897 does indicate that two orders were signed on August 27, 2021, the second one presumably an order denying Abbott’s or the State Defendants’ plea to the jurisdiction. There are no descriptors, so one has to make inferences based on pending motions.

    Even though Travis County is run by Democrats, this fact provides no assurance for openness, transparency, and accessibility. Alas. Not only do they have an antiquated docket management system (with very little information about filed items and docket events), they also want you to pay for viewing documents, which — mind you — are public records to which  clerks of other metropolitan counties – such as Dallas and Harris — provide access for free. 

    To look at  the petitions in intervention in this Travis County case will cost you $1.70, $3.30, $6.00 apiece, depending on which parties’ filing you want to read. The defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction will set you back another $6.00, and their Motion to Dissolve the TRO (which has numerous exhibits attached to it), will cost you more than $30.00. These exhibits include copies of previously filed litigation documents and orders from other courts that are already posted online and may be accessed free of charge. For a copy of the AG’s petition for writ of mandamus filed in the San Antonio Court of Appeals, for example, the Travis County District Clerk wants you to fork over $6.00.

    This is shameful!

    Especially in a case that affects hundreds of thousands of parents and their children, not to mention teachers and school administrators across the State.

    Kudos the KRGV for at least posting the temporary injunction order for the interested public.
    You can see that here:[email protected]_20210827_193512.pdf

    Hopefully one of the school-district plaintiffs or intervenors could be kind enough to post copies of the litigation documents on their own website, or arrange for them to be posted by a nonprofit entity. The attorneys in charge for the parties are routinely served with documents filed by any party because this is mandatory under the Rules of Civil Procedure. Perhaps even Mr. Siegel, a private attorney, could step up and provide such public service if the tax-payer funded entities cannot be bothered to attend to the informational needs of the public.

    Houston ISD joined the La Joya lawsuit as intervenor. Mr. Millard House II, HISD Superintendent, has at least issued a short press release. Is it too much trouble to actually post the temporary injunction order so folks can read for themselves what the judge has ordered? What about a copy of what HISD has filed in the way of pleadings and supporting evidence? Are lowly parents and property tax payers allowed to see it? Or educators, for that matter?

    CASE INFO: La Joya Independent School District, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, Hidalgo Independent School District, et al. vs. Greg Abbott in his Official Capacity as Governor of Texas, Ken Paxton in his Official Capacity as Attorney General of Texas, State of Texas, Office of the Texas Governor, Office of the Attorney General, Cause No. D-1-GN-21-003897 in the 353rd District Court in Travis County, Texas (state court). 

    TAGS: open records, public information, transparency, court records, judicial administration, docket management systems

  2. SocraticGadfly says:

    Aren’t judges in other cases getting a copy of the press release from the Harris County attorney?

    Oh, and you need to be keeping track of what ISDs have already announced closures.

  3. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    If interested in public administration/legal process …

    … otherwise this is probably more than what you need to know.


    Re: “I am assuming that a bunch of similar lawsuits were combined into one and that’s how they all wound up before Judge Mauzy.”

    Although the Abbott-AG Alliance chose to attack all three TROs in the three mask-mandate cases with a single mandamus petition in the SCOTX, they remain separate suits in Travis County.

    The reason for a single judge is mostly likely because they have a centralized docket system like Bexar County, meaning that different judges get to make rulings in the same case on different occasions. If related cases that are formally pending in different trial courts are set for a hearing on the same day – such as here the temporary injunction hearing – they can be sent to the same judge. And that can be a different judge from the one that previously heard the three temporary restraining orders previously (Judge Soifer then, Judge Mauzy now). As matter of formality, the three cases remain in the courts to which they were each randomly assigned at in-take:

    TC: D-1-GN-21-003792 Travis Cty 53rd District Court (Southern Center)
    TC: D-1-GN-21-003897 Travis Cty 353rd District Court (La Joya ISD et al incl HISD)
    TC: D-1-GN-21-003896 Travis Cty 345th District Court (Harris County)

    In Harris County, by contrast, each civil district court judge has her or his own bailiwick, so to speak, except for emergency matters – such as TRO applications – which get heard by the “ancillary judge” of the Civil Trial Division, i.e. one of them assigned for that special docket on a rotating basis. So, in Harris County (and many others) you know which judge you have drawn once a newly-filed case is assigned a cause number and a court by the clerk (and you also know which judge will hear the TRO, if you need one, as long as you keep up with the assignments as posted). Your case will thereafter stay in the assigned court and with the same presiding judge of that court throughout its life unless it is formally transferred, such as might happen if the judge recuses herself. If an appeal results in a reversal with remand, the case will also come back to the same court.

    In counties with central dockets, cases also get assigned to a specific court and formally stay in that court, but you don’t necessarily know which judge will sit at various points the hear motions while that case proceeds to trial and final judgment or some other type of termination. You will find out on the day of the hearing, with the ad-hoc assignments being driven by which judges are currently available. That’s a more efficient way to organize the workflow in a local court system with many courts that have concurrent jurisdiction. But it makes rulings less predictable because attorneys can only guess which judge will get to hear their case (though there are exceptions) and cannot therefore rely on their personal familiarity with judges to anticipate outcomes, especially on routine procedural matters.


    In Texas, district courts may operate on a central-docket system, see Texas Constitution article V, § 11 (authorizing district judges to “exchange districts, or hold courts for each other”); see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 330(e) (in county with multiple civil district courts, judges may exchange benches and may determine any case pending in another court or sit as judge in other courts); In re Schmitz, 285 S.W.3d 451, 454 (Tex. 2009) (orig. proceeding) (judges may sit for one another whenever they choose). Pursuant to that authority, the Travis County District Courts have adopted local rules permitting the operation of a rotating central-docket system. See Travis Cty. Dist. Ct. Loc. R. 1.2 (all civil cases other than those on specialized dockets are set on Central Docket), 1.3 (any district judge may conduct hearing). The local rules allow a party to request that a case be assigned to one judge instead of the central docket system (such a request generally “should be made at the beginning of the case”). See id. R. 2.6.

    Multiple cases can also be merged into a single one, but that would require a good reason and a motion to consolidate. Not likely here because different types of plaintiffs are involved, who make different legal arguments, though some overlap. Unsurprisinlgy, additional school districts that decided to get involved have joined the La Joya ISD v. Abbott case (by filing petitions in intervention), rather than the case brought by Harris County as a county.

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