State District Judge Brad Urrutia has issued an order blocking the arrest of House Democrats who fled the state to prevent a quorum to pass election reforms in a type of flight filibuster. They have been heralded by Democrats in Washington (despite their own opposition to federal filibusters as anti-Democratic). The order freezes any further action until the parties can brief the question. This is a different lawsuit from the error-ridden and poorly conceived federal filing from these members.
The lawsuit on behalf of 19 House Democrats by attorneys Samuel E. Bassett, Jeremy Monthy and Megan Rue.
The complaint of the raises the little used power under Texas law to forcibly bring legislators to the floor. The United States Constitution has the same power. The state power is contained in Article III, Sec. 10 mandating that the House can “compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide.”
That is the same language of Article I, Section 5 of the federal constitution: “[Each house] may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.”
The legislature has relied on that authority for its own rule allow for a Motion for Call of the House, directing the House’s sergeant-at-arms to order state police to force the wayward members back to the floor. Rule 5 (Sec. 8) specifically refers to an “arrest”: “All absentees for whom no sufficient excuse is made may, by order of a majority of those present, be sent for and arrested, wherever they may be found.”
The members hit on the meaning of arrest to incorporate constitutional and statutory limits for officers to make arrests, including the requirement of an underlying criminal allegation.