Sheriff’s Office to enforce shutdown after county attorney reinstates order

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The shutdown is back in effect.

Late Friday night, the El Paso County Attorney issued a legal opinion in support of the non-essential business shutdown order issued on Thursday night by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. 

El Paso County Sheriffs Deputies will be enforcing the shutdown orders.

According to the EP County Sheriff’s Office:

“We understand that the Texas State Attorney General has issued his opinion that certain provisions contained within the El Paso County Judge’s new order are not enforceable.  Additionally, we are aware that a lawsuit has been filed and is currently pending.

However, based upon the opinion released last night from the El Paso County Attorney’s Office, it is clear that the County Judge’s order is in fact legal and enforceable.  As such, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing all the provisions in the new order.

Covid infections are out of control and continue to skyrocket with no end in sight.  We are hopeful that the citizens of El Paso will understand the seriousness of this issue and voluntarily comply with the Judge’s order.  Otherwise, enforcement action will be taken.”

County Attorney JoAnn Bernal says Texas Government Code Chapter 418 gives County Judge Ricardo Samaniego County Judge authority to issue emergency orders during a disaster declaration.

Bernal says Texas law only allows the governor to suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute. The County Judge’s Emergency Order No. 13 is not a regulatory statute and, therefore, not limited by the Governor.

To the extent of a conflict between an order of the County Judge and the Mayor’s Directive, Chapter 418 provides that the County Judge’s decisions prevail. As such, Emergency Order No. 13, issued by the County Judge on October 29, 2020, is valid and enforceable.

According to Bernal, the state legislature never authorized the governor to override a local judge’s emergency orders, despite Margo’s and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s claims.

Bernal’s defense is based on the governor’s limitations to suspend state regulatory statutes that do not include judge’s orders. 

Moreover, Bernal says the law is clear that mayors must comply with county judge’s orders.

It is unclear whether the City, business owners, and residents will comply.

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