Texas Attorney General told to stop meddling in salon court case

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Thursday, May 7, 2020
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"Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen," the governor said.

DALLAS, Texas (KTRK) -- Judges in Dallas County have rebuked the state's top legal officer amid the controversy surrounding a Dallas salon owner.

In a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, 12 civil district judges called Paxton's letter to Judge Eric Moyé "inappropriate and equally unwelcome."

The rebuke was in reference to Paxton's letter calling the sentencing of Shelley Luther outrageous. Luther was sentenced to jail after being found in contempt of court in a case involving keeping her hair salon open despite closure orders.

RELATED: TX Attorney General blasts judge for jailing Dallas salon owner

She was ordered to be released Thursday by the Texas Supreme Court.

"As a current Member of the Bar, you certainly should be aware of the impropriety of this contact, as prohibited by Canon 3(b)(8) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct," the letter to Paxton stated. "In this context, for you to "Urge" a Judge towards a particular substantive outcome in this matter is most inappropriate and equally unwelcome. Please do not communicate with the Court in this manner further."

The letter was obtained by the Dallas Morning News. It was signed by Eric Moyé, the judge who sentenced Luther, and 11 others.

Moyé said during Tuesday's hearing that he would consider levying a fine instead of jail time if Luther would apologize and not reopen until she was allowed to do so. Luther refused.

"Feeding my kids is not selfish," she told Moyé. "If you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon."

Moyé wrote in his judgment of contempt: "The defiance of the court's order was open, flagrant and intentional." He noted that, despite being given the opportunity to apologize, Luther has "expressed no contrition, remorse or regret" for her actions.

Paxton, a Republican, has served as state attorney general since 2015 when he was elected to succeed Greg Abbott, who left office when he was elected governor. All 12 judges who signed the letter are Democrats.

Abbott revised the state's emergency order regarding COVID-19 closures Thursday to eliminate jail time as a punishment for violations.

SEE ALSO: Governor eliminates jail time for violating COVID-19 orders after Dallas salon owner's sentence