Texas Supreme Court Tosses Out Restraining Order Against Salon Owner
Shelley Luther would have faced five more days in jail for opening her business despite restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic if justices had found the order legitimate
A Dallas state district judge was wrong to issue a restraining order against salon owner Shelley Luther last year for opening her business despite restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s highest civil court has found.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that State District Judge Eric Moyé’s temporary restraining order was void. Moye’s order last year prohibited Luther from operating her salon while state and local emergency orders closed nonessential businesses.
Luther was fined $7,000 and jailed May 5 for violating Moyé’s order and keeping open her business, Salon á la Mode. She appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ordered her release from jail on May 7 on a personal bond while it reviewed the case.
“We now conclude that the temporary restraining order failed to set forth the conduct required and the legal basis for its issuance in clear, specific and unambiguous terms,” the Supreme Court’s opinion says.
“Everybody’s very excited,” Luther’s attorney Warren Norred said. Luther had broken the news to him Friday morning after receiving the opinion.
The decision means Luther won’t go back to jail. She had originally faced a full week in jail for violating the restraining order. If the justices had agreed with Moyé, Luther would have returned to jail for five more days, Norred said. She also would have needed to pay the $7,000 fine. She didn’t pay while waiting for the Supreme Court decision, Norred said.
“To say we are pleased with the court’s ruling is an understatement,” Luther said in a news release. “We could not have prevailed without our attorney Warren Norred’s relentless pursuit of justice.”
Luther and her legal team will soon discuss what to do next, Norred said. The city of Dallas sued Luther last April 28, and she countersued. The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 14, Norred said.
Moyé, who did not respond to a request for comment, is presiding over the lawsuit. Judges are prohibited from commenting on pending cases.
Luther became a symbol for conservatives who believed the pandemic restrictions were overreaching. She was a guest speaker at GOP events and ran unsuccessfully for the Texas Senate. She now hosts a podcast called Courage to Stand.
The justices’ decision was not a resounding victory for civil liberties, Norred said.
“This opinion doesn’t have anything to do with the Disaster Act or anything like that,” he said. “It’s really on the technical aspects and what’s required of a [temporary restraining order].”
Luther argued in court filings that the Disaster Act was unconstitutional, and the justices could have opined on that “if they wanted to,” Norred said.
The justices found that legally required standards were not met in the temporary restraining order and that the order did not spell out what Luther was allowed to do or prohibited from doing.
Moyé’s order was vague, the court ruled, for saying she must stop conducting in-person services at the salon “in violation of State of Texas, Dallas County, and City of Dallas emergency regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Moyé didn’t point to a specific regulation that Luther violated or threatened to violate, the justices said.
“Luther could not know without analyzing a multitude of regulations — state, county, and city emergency orders referenced in the temporary restraining order, plus the federal guidelines they referenced — what conduct was prohibited at any given time the temporary restraining order was in effect,” the ruling says.
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