Texas Rep. Gene Wu avoids arrest after judge grants writ of habeas corpus

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The saga over whether or not Democrats who fled for Washington, D.C. to avoid voting on a Texas voting bill can be arrested took another turn Wednesday.

Texas Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) remains a free man, for now, after a District Court Judge granted an order called writ Habeas Corpus, which will allow Wu to be released if he is arrested until a judge decides whether the civil arrest warrants for 52 Texas Democrats is legal or not.

"We will do everything we can to make sure the right to vote for all Texans is protected," Wu said, following Wednesday's court proceedings. "We will not go down without a fight."

On Tuesday, 52 civil arrest warrants were filed in response to House Democrats who have refused to return to the Texas Capitol in an effort to break quorum and prevent the Republicans' voting bill from moving forward.

Wu's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the warrant issued, arguing that it was illegal.

"There was no quorum, so they could do no business, so the warrant is illegal and the warrant to arrest violates the Texas constitution," said one of Wu's lawyers, Stanley Schneider.



Jason Vaughn, policy director of Texas Young Republicans said Gov. Greg Abbott promised to continue to call special sessions until the bills on the agenda, including the Election Integrity Bill, are voted on.

"At some point, they're going to have to come back and get the job done," Vaughn said. "We're three or four (House Democrats) away from quorum now. It's time to get to work. So let's put this aside. There are plenty of things we can work on together and let's get the job done."

Judge Chris Morton, of the 230th District Court, appeared to rule in Wu's favor, for now, saying that he is concerned that Attorney General Ken Paxton wasn't notified about the arrest warrant filed.

Thus, Morton granted a writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing Wu's attorney's to ask the judge to release the lawmaker until it is decided if his detention was lawful.

It will be up to a judge to decide if the warrants issued by the Texas House of Representatives are legal. Wu is a free man until a judge makes that call.

While the Texas House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to authorize law enforcement to track down Democrats and bring them back to the state Capitol, the writ issued Wednesday was only in regards to Wu.

"We are here to make some good trouble. This is a reminder to Governor Abbott that we still live in a democracy and that we are here as Democrats, as public officials, to defend the right to vote, the freedom to vote, as our most fundamental right that we have as Americans, as Texans," Wu said after court.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said on Wednesday that this is a constitutional issue, not a criminal case.

"Our criminal courts should not be used to determine and decide political differences," Ogg said. "The legislature has a responsibility to work together and while I personally support what the democratic representatives have done, as the District Attorney of Harris County. I'm bound to follow the law. I reported in Representation of the people of Texas in case courts later find this to be a criminal matter."

Ogg said she anticipates more challenges will be filed in the coming days.

"Representative Wu is a free man. He doesn't have to worry at this time about being arrested and locked up in the chambers in the House of Representatives," said attorney Brent Mayr. The order issued by the judge also trumps the warrant so that no one can take him into custody right now.

Wu's attorneys plan to return to court next Wednesday.

When asked if Wu planned to return to Austin, he had a very emphatic answer.

"Hell no."

The next court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, August 18.

As of Wednesday, the Texas Democrats have not been charged with a crime or face a fine. The civil arrest warrants would only allow for the Texas Department of Public Safety to return the representatives to the State Capitol.

MORE ON THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE:

Texas Democrats still accepted special session per diem, documents reveal
Texas House orders arrest of missing Democrats as weekslong stalemate over voting bill continues
2 more Houston lawmakers arrested in DC during march for voting rights

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