Texas Democratic Legislators File Kraken-Level Lawsuit Against Governor

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

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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.

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  1. Is this one of those “frivolous” lawsuits that the court will heavily fine the plaintiff’s lawyers for bringing?

    1. I hesitate to say that it’s frivolous, only because it’s so incomprehensible that I don’t even know what it’s trying to do. But if the attorney doubles down after being called on it, yes, it would likely be sanctionable.

      1. Is that the “incomprehensible” exception to Rule 11.

        (Which actually is a thing. I was once in a case where the plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed a 150 page complaint, in single space, 10 point type, with copious footnotes. The district court characterized it as a “Serbonian Bog” and dismissed it. But he declined to sanction the attorney, mainly, I think, because the whole thing was such a mess he did not want to slog through it twice.)

        1. I mean, some of the kraken suits wanted the courts to declare Trump to be president, and one wanted the entire federal government placed under Denethor’s control, and the one that resulted in sanctions just the other day wanted $160 billion in damages, but at least you knew what the claims were — space aliens colluded with illegal aliens and Italians and Hugo Chavez to steal the election — so you could tell they were frivolous.

          In this case, I don’t know what the attorney is alleging was done or what relief he’s seeking.

      2. Is that not skating perilously close to the definition of frivolous? It may not, from the plaintiffs’ perspective, be a nuisance suit, or an incomprehensible mess, but to others, it certainly has this appearance. And given this, one might take it that it was intentional, thus frivolous. One supposes on the other hand, that if this is not the case, that these are likely not the sort of people one would want crafting laws, in that there is a decidedly immature and unserious bend to the entire affair.

  2. first, let’s see the FAA impose fines on the for not wearing masks on their charter flight out of Texas; what a bunch of hypocrites

  3. An uncommonly silly suit.

    1. Since the federal constitution grants the federal congressional leadership the power to use the sergeant-at-arms to compel attendance for votes, I would find it suspicious to argue state constitutions that did the same somehow violated the state congress’ federal rights to go to DC to yabber to their own federal congresspeople.

  4. What the Texas Ds are doing is functionally equivalent to the Rs doing the filibuster. So lets take a moment and admire the hypocrisy.

    1. Fleeing the state to avoid doing your elected function is “functionality equivalent” to meeting in legislative sessions? I thought the whole point of what the Texas Democrats are doing was that it was functionality different!

      1. Both are using parliamentary rules to block the passage of bills. One relies on quorum and one relies on closure.

        1. The post has nothing to do with the tactic at hand, it has to do with the lawsuit, which is ridiculous.

          As far as the tavtic goes, I mean this isn’t the first time its been done, and the result has always been to arrest those who fled and bring them back to the state. That will likely happen here. Whats your point? You have an obligation to do your job … you don’t have an obligation to vote for things you disagree with.

          1. The legislature’s job is as much not passing stuff as it is passing stuff. Viewed in that light they are doing their job.

            1. The legislature’s job is to meet as a body to determine what bills they should pass (as a body). Texas Democrats, like Wisconsin Democrats before then, are preventing the entire assembly from doing that job.

              1. Well, a filibuster prevents the entire body from determining whether something should pass. This is just a different type of filibuster.

                1. No its not. A filibuster is a rule specifically intended when everyone is present to stop voting. A quorum is a simple rule to ensure enough people present and that a group of people can’t pass something without ensuring that. It’s a bastardization to use quorum as a filibuster and all it shows is they act like kids.

                  1. No, what it shows is that when they’re playing against a stacked deck, the only way to win is to refuse to play.

                    1. “Playing against a stacked deck”?

                      The Democrats did not run appealing enough candidates and/or have an appealing enough platform to convince the voting electorate to put them in the majority.

                      Elections have consequences. Running away and abandoning the job you were elected to do is childish and cowardly.

                    2. They’re not running away; they’re doing the only thing available to them to keep Texas from sliding completely off the edge. They remind me of the bank employee who, during a robbery, snuck out and stole the getaway car. They are heroes.

                    3. Please tell us. Specifically what provision of this bill constitutes going over the edge.

                      Hell, just tell us what specific provision you object to. Or which one is most like Jim Crow laws.

                    4. Bevis, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

                      A healthy democracy requires a minimum of two healthy political parties, which Texas does not currently have. The party that is in power is the party of conspiracy theories, open racism, hostility to science, and religious nuttery. Because of its extremist views, and because of changing demographics, Texas has purpled to the point where the Democrats are within striking distance of reclaiming power there, though I think it’s at least another couple of election cycles off.

                      Knowing this, the Republicans propose to change the rules to make it harder for minorities to vote. Please note, they are not interested in changing their extremist views; only in making it harder for minorities to vote. If they are successful, it will empower the most extremist parts of their party, while making it more difficult for the asylum to be taken back from the lunatics currently running it.

                      Everything that can possibly be done to stop that result needs to be done. Biden should give the Texas Democrats safe haven in the White House itself if necessary. And if that means there is no legislative session at all until after the next election, that’s the better of the alternatives.

                    5. CNN has an overview of the Texas law. There’s nothing in there that makes it harder for minorities to vote. Sounds like another Blueanon conspiracy theory.

                    6. Yeah it’s that simple. But I knew you couldn’t tell me anything specific that does that.

                      Because you’re just accepting the narrative without any independent thought. That’s made more obvious by your description of republicans. News flash man, team blue isn’t any better on science or on racism than team red. They just ignore science that doesn’t fit their agenda and hate a different set of people.

                      I’d suggest you look at the bill and think for yourself but I don’t think you want to. The media tells you what you want to hear and that’s good enough.

                    7. Oh I’ve read the bill and it does exactly what I said it does. It’s about making Democrats less competitive and nothing more. Why not make it easier to vote, not harder?

                      As for team blue being no better on science and racism your denials don’t change the facts on the ground. Get back to me when Democrats advocate teaching creationism in public schools or measures making it harder for whites to vote.

                    8. You haven’t read that stinking bill. You’ve responded at least twice since I asked you to name a specific provision and haven’t even tried to do so.

                      Because you don’t know what it says. You want what you think to be true but don’t really care to find out whether it is.

                    9. Oh I’ve read the bill and it does exactly what I said it does.

                      You are, as always, more full of crap than the only port-a-potty on day 7 of a week-long 4-alarm chili cookoff.

                    10. “They’re not running away; they’re doing the only thing available to them to keep Texas from sliding completely off the edge. They remind me of the bank employee who, during a robbery, snuck out and stole the getaway car. They are heroes.”

                      No, they’re subverting democracy, as the duly elected majority party has put forth legislation. They can choose to vote against it, or they can choose to abstain.

                      Your analogy doesn’t come close to working, as it incorrectly conflates and compares bank robbers to the representatives the majority of voters elected. They’re cowards who should be stripped of their office(s) for dereliction of duty.

                2. “Well, a filibuster prevents the entire body from determining whether something should pass. This is just a different type of filibuster.”

                  If the Dems in the Senate are unhappy with the way the Republicans are using the filibuster, they can eliminate it.

                3. Since 1970, the Senate’s form of filibuster only blocks specific business. Other business can continue unimpeded. Even holding the floor in the old fashion does not block the Senate from pursuing its normal duties.

            2. The legislature’s job is as much not passing stuff as it is passing stuff.

              To claim that preventing bills from being voted on via means that make them legally subject to arrest is somehow their “job” requires a level of stupidity that I thought even you incapable of. Clearly I was giving you too much credit.

            3. Violating the House rules (which as far as I know have the force of law) is “doing their job”?!

              A senate filibuster is legal. What these people are doing is not. That is a major difference.

          2. Republicans did the same thing in Oregon recently. Some fled the state and some went into hiding to prevent a vote.

        2. Texas’s quorum requirement is a constitutional one, not a parliamentary rule. The state constitution then allows the legislature to define an enforcement mechanism. “Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do
          business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as
          each House may provide.”

          So the Texas Democrats are preventing the legislature from doing business. On contrast, the filibuster is one of the US Senate’s procedures for doing business.

          1. Maybe it shouldn’t be doing this particular piece of business

            1. Or maybe the people should be doing their job and showing up.

            2. Maybe it shouldn’t be doing this particular piece of business

              But….democracy!!!

        3. Senators filibustering a debate are using the rules. Texas legislators deliberately absenting themselves from the chamber in order to prevent a quorum are not using the rules, they are violating them; the rules specifically prohibit such behavior and authorize their arrest for it.

      2. ‘member when Repubs did that somewhere once, and Dems went apoplectic about how evil it was and abusive?

        Popcorn time

    2. I’m sorry, the filibuster has been in place for decades and I fail to see how either party using it (how quickly democratic forget how they used to love the filibuster just 4 years ago) is remotely comparable to this.

      Furthermore, the complaint isn’t even about fleeing the state to avoid quorum requirements, which, I mean, the constitution expressly grants the authority to arrest and force the members to vote (I believe) at the federal level, and at the state level policies are similar. The democrats are the ones filing the lawsuit here.

      1. Try reading the Constitution before you speak of what you believe it says.

        1. You literally called it a filibuster above, then a parliamentary procedure, and finally accused someone else of not reading the Texas Constitution.

          You’re a class A idiot and a paid troll.

          1. A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure. And I was accusing him of not reading the US constitution. So who is the moron now? (Hint: you)


            1. Wait, are are calling him a moron because you failed to understand which constitution he was referring to in his post?

              1. No, she does that because that’s what she does.

              2. She correctly understood which constitution he was referring to in his post:

                which, I mean, the constitution expressly grants the authority to arrest and force the members to vote (I believe) at the federal level,

                1. Where does the US Constitution grant such powers to the Texas government or its officials?

                  If the level of enforcement is uncertain but believed to be federal, it seems obvious that the state’s constitution is the one that would be under discussion; if it were the US Constitution, the level of enforcement would necessarily be federal.

                  Do you then agree that she knew the reference was to the Texas Constitution?

                  1. No where, because US Constitution does not grant any powers to the states. It’s the reverse, the States grant powers to the Federal government in the Constitution, and agree to such restrictions in in. As the states are also sovereign entities in any are not delegated, you should be asking if anything in the US Constitution prohibits it. Since this is part of being a republican form of government, and there are no prohibitions, there is nothing wrong with what Texas is doing.

    3. It’s about how miserably they’ve mucked it up. Miller Lite, no masks, Covid positive tests, Portugal vacation, that ridiculous rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” and allowing that twit that looks like he’s 12 anywhere near a video camera.

      They’re punchlines now, and have given Texas Republicans a truckfull of clips for election season.

    4. “So lets take a moment and admire the hypocrisy.”

      Except for the filibuster is an agreement between the two sides and quorum busting isn’t. Ignore that major point and it’s exactly the same.

      Good ‘ol Molly. Showing us her politically broken brain regularly.

    5. The hypocrisy comes from your in-group who denounce the filibuster as modern day Jim Crow tactics or holdover. If that is so, then these (D) politicians, who are not ‘using parliamentary rules’ any more than calling in a bomb threat to delay a vote would be doing so, are using Jim Crow tactics. Irony indeed. And demonstrative of the dishonesty of many politicians, and almost all rhetoric being bandied about on the topic.

  5. This is the year that new state and federal districts are drawn up based on the 2020 census. Texas law says that, if the legislature is unable – in this case, without a quorum – to draw them up, a special group of state officials will do the deed.
    This year all of those officials happen to be Republicans.
    Oops.

    1. Because otherwise the Republican legislature can be counted on to draw reasonable, representative, districts.

      Sure, Johannes.

    2. I don’t get your “oops” line. If the legislators stayed and the legislature drew the lines, it would be a Republican-controlled legislature. Democratic legislatures wouldn’t be giving up anything but the chance to futilely vote no.

      1. And issue press releases…..

  6. Case gets assigned to a Trump-appointed judge, who issues a show cause order why the plaintiffs should not be sanctioned for frivolous filing. They appear at the courthouse, only to be arrested by the House sergeant-at-arms.

    My legislature is never this much fun. The Democrats couldn’t break quorum here even if they all left the state.

  7. “Race, in that certain Plaintiffs are either black or white”

    Is that accurate? Must say, that would certainly be novel. Not in a good way.

    “You Honor, the income tax is unconstitutional, in that it discriminates on the basis of race, because all of the people taxed are either white, black or brown.”

  8. The lawsuit is ridiculous, and worse, doesn’t advance the actual cause the Texas Democratic representatives purport to support.

    Nevertheless, much of the Democratic establishment and media are cheering them on. I would suggest that when the $trillion+ Democratic budget comes up for a vote in the Senate, all 50 Republican senators leave DC and deny the Democratic a constitutionally-mandated quorum of 51 senators until the Texas Democrats return to Texas and a vote properly held. The media hypocrisy criticizing the Republicans would be glorious and great fodder for campaign commercials in swing districts and states (along with the Cori Bush “defund the policy” but still provide her provide security ads).

    1. I would suggest that when the $trillion+ Democratic budget comes up for a vote in the Senate, all 50 Republican senators leave DC and deny the Democratic a constitutionally-mandated quorum of 51 senators

      Nope. Won’t work. The Senate operates under the presumption that it has a quorum; a senator has to suggest the absence of a quorum to force a quorum call. If all 50 GOP senators leave DC, then there’s nobody to suggest a lack of quorum and the Senate keeps operating.

      1. Texas too, which is why the Dems didn’t all leave. They left (I think) three members behind so there’d always be someone at hand to call for a quorum if the Reps tried to pass something.

    2. Besides the fact that if they all left it would defeat the purpose, leaving DC wouldn’t work because they could be arrested anywhere in the USA. That’s why the Texas Dems didn’t just leave Austin, they fled to where Texas law enforcement has no authority. So anyone trying the same stunt at a federal level would have to flee to another country.

      Also, the quorum in Congress is a majority, not two thirds, so it’s impossible for a minority to deprive it of a quorum just by leaving. To do that you’d have to have a majority of members leave, which would make no sense. If they’re the majority they can just stay and defeat whatever it is they’re objecting to.

      1. Also, the quorum in Congress is a majority, not two thirds, so it’s impossible for a minority to deprive it of a quorum just by leaving. To do that you’d have to have a majority of members leave, which would make no sense. If they’re the majority they can just stay and defeat whatever it is they’re objecting to.

        …except in the unique context of a 50-50 Senate.

        (But as discussed above, that won’t work either because then there’s nobody to suggest the absence of a quorum.)

  9. The media is reporting on this lawsuit like it is groundbreaking and historic. If you needed any more of a glaring example of media bias in 2021, here you go.

    1. Well, to be fair, it is pretty groundbreaking, in that it is making those Trump Kraken suits seem coherent by comparison, and nobody would have thought that that was possible.

      1. It has been a pretty good year for stunningly stupid lawsuits, yes. I await the next, the suit that tops this.

  10. I’ll admit to not knowing knowing anything about Texas pleading standards, but those sets of facts seem a mite conclusory, Tex.

    So: federal S1983 claim in state court against state governor and speaker of the house alleging (1) interference with state legislators’ right to petition the federal government, with ancillary speech and travel claims (with voting somehow implicated), and (2) it’s because of race/color/creed (creed here being a political position on a certain issue).

    Does the right to peacably petition extend to claims beyond those common to every citizen as an attribute of national citizenship (i.e., do officeholders have a constitutional right to certain forms of intergovernmental administrative redress)? Is the function of reining in the speaker and governor committed to the legislative branch, and not susceptible of judicial resolution? Is the prudential political quesiton doctrine particularly implicated in a federal cause of action in state court? Do the inherently plenary powers of state legislatures make the acts of their officers immune from judical scrutiny absent clear violation of an enumerated federal constitutional right?

    All questions that will almost certainly not be answered in this lawsuit. You have to have the jakes to open, not just take the trips to win.

    Mr. D.

    1. My mistake, federal suit. Read quickly, repented at leisure.

      Mr. D.

    2. It’s a stretch to think The Several States, and The People, when creating the federal government, gave it the power to use the sargeant-at-arms to compel federal congressional attendance, yet somehow intended federal rights-to-speak to override the exact same thing in their own state constitutions.

      If you wanna get even fussier, clearly the right to go speak elsewhere is specifically overridden at the federal level, so there’s no there there to incorporate downward.

      1. Interesting. Many think state constitutions and the Federal Constitution are on completely differnt footings; probably the majority view, actually. State constitutions basically divide exisitng forms of legislative, judicial, and executive power among their branches while the FG branches only have the specific powers granted, since the ultimate power is in the hands of the people (ratther than the plenary power that existed beforehand) and that power is mediated by the written form of the Constitution. See, for example the pre-Civil War Due Process debates with the change from Marshall’s jurisprudence to Taney’s.

        Mr. D.

  11. On the discrimination claims, it appears that the plaintiffs are alleging that the defendants behaved indiscriminantly, for example, behaving the same towards both black and white people.

    In other words, the complaint, on its face, clearly alleges the defendants DIDN’T discriminate, thereby arguing the plainitffs right out of court.

    1. And this before we even get to defenses like legislative immunity.

  12. Still looking for the story on who is paying for the expenses in DC, who paid for the plane, and are they still drawing their legislative stipend.

    1. I wonder if this would impact their claim of a federal right to go speak to their own federal congressmen.

      Are they doing this as private citizens, or as state representatives? The former would seem to be a necessary but not sufficient component if it were to have any chance in hell.

  13. This is a silly, unprofessional complaint.

    Perhaps the only thing it has going for it is that it is not the work of bigoted, vote-suppressing culture war losers.

    You know — Republicans.

    1. Are you aiming to cop some succor in this forum?

  14. I’m really confused the legislators are being discriminated against because they don’t show up to be out voted?

    I really really wish someone would under take a comprehensive review of state voting laws and point out those provisions of these laws which are “voter suppression”. The only one I’ve heard of that strikes me as extreme is the legislature in some cases giving itself the ability to overrule local election officials.

  15. Is anybody reporting on what exactly is in this Jim Crow on Steroids bill.

    I live in Texas and the only thing that I’ve seen is that it eliminates drive in voting. Which you can argue about either way I guess, but do we really have to insult the suffering of the victims of Actual Jim Crow with the comparison?

    1. “Is anybody reporting on what exactly is in this Jim Crow on Steroids bill.”

      Yup. At least according to Biden, it would appear that the education system has greatly mislead us about the severity of Jim Crow. Maybe curriclula will have to be changed to reflect the fact that Jim Crow was less severe than banning drive-through voting.

    2. The bills also heavily regulates – with criminal penalties – assisting voters both planning to vote by mail and at the polls. Lots of oaths and paperwork.

      If you’re gonna do a voter fraud, taking an oath doesn’t seem like it’ll do much. But if you’re not, it sure is a needless disincentive!

      It also prohibits poll watchers from being removed for violating election law. Which is sure to end well.

      Bans extended hours early voting. One guess who that predominantly effects.

      This is not as bad as some, but it’s pretty naked about what it’s doing. And anti-fraud ain’t it.

      1. Forces people who drive non-relatives to the polls to register with election officials and fill out paperwork. Although it doesn’t say it explicitly, as drafted it can only be aimed at van drivers who take people from churches or nursing homes to the polls.

  16. It would be interesting to see what percentage of Democrats buy this legal argument, as opposed to the roughly 65% of Republicans who still agree with the positions pushed by Trump’s attorneys Giuliani, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell as to widespread voter fraud.

    1. They didn’t buy it — when the shoe was on the other foot and the Rpublicans fled.

      Which is why this is all theater. But we all knew that anyway.

    2. Depending on which poll one refers to, the numbers are decidedly lower, closer to 50%. This is without digging into the sample size and methodology. I’ve stated before, extrapolating from a set of 1000 people to a nation of 350ish million is fallacious. Otherwise, good job with the whataboutism attempt.

      1. I’ve stated before, extrapolating from a set of 1000 people to a nation of 350ish million is fallacious.

        Why are you bragging about your statistical innumeracy? It is not “fallacious”; it is the way statistics work.

  17. It’s times like these that politicians prove that they have no principles.

    “I am infuriated that Republicans are walking off the job while collecting a salary, receiving benefits, and even a daily per diem. … We must acknowledge the walkout for what it is: subversion of democracy and a dereliction of duty. To call walking out on your oath of office ‘leadership’ is insulting.” – Oregon Senate majority leader Ginny Burdick.

    And,

    “Governor Greg Abbott (R) responded to the walkout saying, “Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve,” and that, “The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.””

    It’s good to be reminded that all politicians on both sides are opportunists who care about themselves first, lobbyists second, and their constituents a distant third if at all.

    1. That sounds like a counter suit to compel the legislators to attend.

  18. This isn’t a serious lawsuit. Y’all have been trolled. Their only goal is to stay in the news. You just helped them.

    Never feed trolls.

  19. You know what is missing in most (all?) of the coverage of this situation? Facts. What are the parts of the law that opponents object to? Hell, I live in Texas and the media down here isn’t covering that aspect. It’s all about the petty quibbling bullshit.

    Does the media just assume that because their team objects that it must be true? The dems called it “Jim Crow” which aside from totally diminishing the suffering of real Jim Crow victims can’t possibly be true. Is there a poll tax in there? A reading test?

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