Dallas County

AG Paxton Asks Clay Jenkins to ‘Reconsider' Mask Mandate in Commissioner's Court

Jenkins also claims that Gov. Greg Abbott's order imposing a ban on mask mandates should be deemed impermissible

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Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins won the first round Friday in a lawsuit against County Commissioner J.J. Koch over his order to wear masks while at meetings of the commissioners court.

Koch refused on Tuesday, saying Jenkins had no authority to violate the governor's order against mask mandates in public buildings. Koch then filed the lawsuit, which also asked that Jenkins be removed from office for incompetence.

Dallas Circuit Court Judge Tonya Parker declined to grant the request from Koch to impose a temporary restraining order on Jenkins, saying that wearing a mask would cause Koch no immediate harm.

Koch said the next step in the case is a temporary injunction hearing which may occur in the next two weeks.

Koch gained a powerful ally in his fight Friday. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) asked Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (D) to withdraw the mask mandate Jenkins issued Tuesday, saying the governor's order should dictate mask procedure at commissioners court.

Jenkins said he was following a recommendation from doctors to reinstate face coverings in light of the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant.

Koch, who represents District 2, insisted he would follow an executive order Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued against mask mandates in public building.

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Koch was escorted out of the meeting by a bailiff and attended the rest of it virtually from his office, but complained he was unable to properly participate.

Jenkins said a Texas Supreme Court order made an exception for courts and that commissioner's court should be considered a court.

Paxton’s letter said the attorney general will also consider all available options if Jenkins does not stop his “unlawful mandate.” Koch said he would welcome the attorney general's support in his lawsuit.

Jenkins previously said commissioners should be focused on fighting COVID-19, not each other. Jenkins' office supplied a response to the Koch lawsuit Friday, which also serves as a response to the Paxton letter.

Jenkins' response repeats his claim that the Texas Supreme Court exemption should apply to the commissioner's courts.

It also claims that Abbott's order imposing a ban on mask mandates should be deemed impermissible because it usurps the judicial and legislative branches and local government authority.

Judge Parker Friday did not rule on Jenkins's claims about the governor's order.

Last week, Judge Maricela Moore, judge of the 162nd Judicial District Court of Dallas County, ordered all people entering the George Allen Courthouse, the Frank Crowley Courthouse, and the Henry Wade Building to wear masks citing the same Texas Supreme court order.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also apparently defied Abbott's order, and said all city employees must wear masks while indoors starting Wednesday, regardless of their vaccination status. The Houston ISD school district is also planning to vote on instituting a mask mandate despite the governor's mandate.

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