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Judge blocks arrest of Texas Democrats who left Austin to thwart GOP-backed voting bill

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State Democratic lawmakers hold a press conference with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, after their departure to Washington, D.C. - TWITTER / @REPLLOYDDOGGETT
  • Twitter / @RepLloydDoggett
  • State Democratic lawmakers hold a press conference with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, after their departure to Washington, D.C.
A state district judge has granted a temporary restraining order blocking the arrest of Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives who broke quorum last month by flying to Washington, D.C.

The order by State District Judge Brad Urrutia of Travis County would allow the Democrats who fled to stop the advance of a controversial Republican-backed voting bill to return to the state without being detained. They argued the bill's new voting restrictions were intended to keep people of color away from the polls.

Urrutia, a Democrat, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan "erroneously interpreted Texas law and legislative rules" in calling for the arrest of the lawmakers to return them to Austin, according to the filing, obtained by the Texas Tribune.

The order expires in 14 days unless the judge opts to extend it.

Urrutia issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 19 House Democrats who argued that Abbott and Phelan abused their power by trying to arrest them for political purposes.

San Antonio State Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Ray Lopez, Trey Martinez Fischer and Ina Minjarez were among the plaintiffs in that suit. 

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