The Volokh Conspiracy

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Texas Democratic Legislators File Kraken-Level Lawsuit Against Governor

After fleeing to Washington, D.C., Texas Democrats are now suing to block election reforms.


Last month, Democrats in the Texas legislature fled the state in an effort to prevent the enactment of controversial election law reforms by denying the Republican majority a legislative quorum. This gambit may have done no more than delay the inevitable, so some of the same legislators are trying a new tactic: Filing a federal lawsuit.

In a suit filed yesterday, twenty-two Democratic legislators allege that Governor Greg Abbott, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan and State Rep. James White violated their constitutional rights. According to the complaint,

Plaintiffs are victims of a discriminatory scheme to violate their Constitutional Right to Assemble to redress grievances; speak; vote; travel, persuade members of the Congress of the United States to help support them in their quest to obtain and maintain all of the rights guaranteed to them and their constituents and the class they represent. All because of their protected status.

The suit alleges discrimination on a variety of grounds, including

(a) Race, in that certain Plaintiffs are either black or white,

(b) Creed, in that certain Plaintiffs have expressed a faith or belief that every eligible citizen has the right to vote,

(c) Color, in that certain Plaintiffs are distinguishable based upon the melanin in their skin, and

(d) Natural origin, in that certain Plaintiffs are descendants of persons born in other countries.

The complaint is not particularly clear on the particulars of how the plantiff legislators' rights have been violated, but it appears the plaintiffs are objecting to the Republican efforts to enact election law reforms, and perhaps to the threat to have the legislature's sergeant-at-arms arrest those legislators who resist a quorum call. This may be hardball politics, but hardball hardly violates the rights of a legislative minority.

As it turns out, some of the named plaintiffs may not actually be on board with the suit. The Texas Tribune reports that at least two of the named plaintiffs did not authorize the suit to be filed on their behalf. That hardly suggests competent, ethical lawyering.

The suit was filed by former Rep. Craig Anthony Washington, who (according to the State Bar of Texas) is on disciplinary probation for professional misconduct. Washington previously had his law license suspended and also had some significant disputes with the IRS.

Some folks claim to "love" this lawsuit. I doubt the federal judge assigned this mess will agree.