Houston attorney planning to sue to stop Texas mask order

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Governor Greg Abbott's mandatory mask order was not even an hour old, and Houston attorney Jared Woodfill was already drafting the paperwork to sue.

"Every time Governor Abbott issues what we believe are unconstitutional mandates or orders, as he describes them, we believe it's appropriate to challenge them," Woodfill told ABC13.

It will be his seventh lawsuit filed against elected officials over executive orders issued during the pandemic.

The former Harris County Republican Party Chairman believes all of them violate people's rights.

"If we can put a mask order, then why can't we force people to also wear gloves? Why can't we force them to wear hazmat suits? Where does it end? Where does government's role end?" he asked.

Woodfill said he would rather see the governor convene the legislature, so they can vote on a course of action.

Criticism and praise followed the order, that goes into effect today. Many hoped it did not come too late.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, in quarantine herself because of possible exposure, released a statement, "I welcome the ability to make face coverings enforceable in Harris County," she wrote. "Every tool that our county is allowed to use to contain this crisis saves lives and gets us closer to a day in which we can sustainably coexist with the virus."

JUDGE HIDALGO'S FULL STATEMENT

"I welcome the ability to make face coverings enforceable in Harris County. We can't lose sight of the fact that, due to the rapid increase in hospitalizations here, already our hospitals have exceeded their base ICU capacity and are having to implement surge protocols. Every tool that our county is allowed to use to contain this crisis saves lives and gets us closer to a day in which we can sustainably coexist with the virus.

We have no time to waste in Harris County -- the virus is not responding to incrementalism, and we are quickly running out of time. I continue to advocate for an enforceable stay home order in Harris County, so that we can bring the curve down and give ourselves a shot at reopening successfully. I'm afraid that waiting will only lead to more lives lost, prolong the economic pain, and bring about further crises."


The enforcement part troubles Houston Police Officers' Union President Joe Gamaldi.

"It's simple. Our position hasn't changed just because the governor is ordering it," Gamaldi said. "Let's be clear about something. We want everyone to wear a mask. We are encouraging everyone to wear a mask and, in fact, we are all wearing masks to give everyone the example, but does anyone think we actually have the time to enforce this? We can't get to robberies in progress right now at gunpoint in less than six minutes, and now you expect us to enforce this," he said incredulously.

It is not clear how that might work. He says people have already been calling 911 to report mask violations.

He also worries if police are forced to enforce the order, it will strain police-community relations further.

"It's just putting law enforcement in an untenable position. It should not be our job to enforce this," Gamaldi said.
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