The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) was never serious about litigating Houston First’s cancellation of the contract that permitted the RPT to use the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) for the State Convention.
First, the RPT’s legal team did not include a litigator – someone to push the issues and advocate for injunctive relief. Instead, Warren Norred, a member of the SREC from North Texas, represented the RPT in court. Obviously, Mr. Norred is conflicted out of this representation as he is a member of the SREC and, as such, made decisions about the convention. Nonetheless, Mr. Norred was the oral advocate for the RPT in this litigation. While Kevin Fulton and Briscoe Cain were on the pleadings, they did not make arguments in court.
Texas Republicans have controlled the Supreme Court of Texas for many years. There are many former justices and members of the Federalist Society who are seasoned litigators. Instead, the RPT team was Norred, Fulton, and Cain. On the very first day of the very first year of law school, every law student is taught the importance of local counsel. Here, Mr. Norred, a North Texas lawyer with a conflict and not a seasoned litigator, was lead counsel. He did his best.
Second, the RPT filed a contract claim in state court. The petition criticized the George Floyd protesters, which involved an outdoor protest for a few hours. Even Judge Hughes supported the Floyd protesters’ right to march. The State Convention is an indoor event in a Houston First facility with a contract between the RPT and Houston First. Dickey’s suit made no viable constitutional claims and was in state court. Good lawyers saw instantly that Dickey did not want to offend the Governor and the fix was in to kill an in person convention.
Third, the RPT’s case was further weakened by the fact the RPT added an addendum to the contract on March 31 including language that further defined a force majeure occurrence. This language was used by the Mayor to shut down the convention. Saying it another way, the RPT’s own language was used against them.
All of the appellate lawyers I know or live with were baffled by the breach of contract claim, which was air tight against the RPT. The obvious claims against Houston First are constitutional claims, not baseless breach of contract claims. The Texas Supreme Court shot it down immediately by ruling against mandamus relief sought by the RPT. If I were a member of the court, I would have been upset with the RPT strategy. According to the RPT, that was their strategy: file this dumpster fire case and get SCOTX to clean up the mess. Justice Devine did deliver a raucous dissent, but the other justices were not wrong and that is an important point.
Jared Woodfill was the first to file a lawsuit over the city’s cancellation of the GRB contract. He filed a third party claim in state district court with Josh Flynn, Secretary of the Republican Party of Texas, and Dr. Steve Hotze as plaintiffs. Jared’s petition centered around constitutional arguments. Jared asked James Dickey to join in his lawsuit, but Dickey refused because Jared is simultaneously fighting the constitutionality of Governor Abbott’s executive orders, including mandatory masks for all and closure of all bars.
Clearly, Mayor Turner was working in concert with Houston First to cancel the State Convention. Judge Hughes repeatedly grilled and toyed with City of Houston lawyers on this issue. In this decision, Turner was supported by Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Representative Dan Crenshaw. Yes, the same guy who famously said that grandparents are willing to die for the U.S. economy supports the cancellation of an in person State Convention. Why? Because the jeers from the GRB would push these elected officials into Galveston Bay.
After the RPT filed their contract claim, Judge Larry Weiman heard the temporary restraining order request filed by Woodfill and the RPT. Sadly, this hearing combined the cases, which allowed the cases to be lumped into the same contract claim category. Judge Weiman gave the parties a fair hearing. After Judge Weiman denied injunctive relief, Dickey disparaged the entire Harris County judiciary by labeling them as partisan hacks.
Instead of roiling in defeat, Jared Filed a motion for emergency injunctive relief in Hotze v. Abbott, a federal court case challenging Governor Abbott’s unconstitutional executive orders. After reading the motion, Judge Lynn Hughes sent the motion for a hearing on Tuesday morning. Again, Jared asked Dickey and the RPT to join the motion, but Dickey declined.
Simply, Jared argued that Houston First’s cancellation of the GRB contract denied the First Amendment guarantee to assemble peaceably. Judge Hughes began the hearing around 11 a.m. He spent time questioning the city’s lawyers on their science and political press releases. Judge Hughes pulled the Constitution from his robe and thundered away at the city’s lawyers about their duty to protect the citizens from tyrannical government.
Specifically, Judge Hughes questioned the city’s chief medical expert, Dr. Persse. The city submitted an affidavit from Dr. Persse in defense of the motion, but Judge Hughes pointed out that Dr. Persse’s comments were opinions not based on science. Judge Hughes pointed out that the good doctor has no hospital, treats no patients, and is picking opinions he likes concerning the virus and repeating them. Paraphrasing Judge Hughes, Perse’s opinions are just that – OPINIONS.
You would think that Dickey, Abbott, et al. would love this, but they were nowhere to be found.
Judge Hughes is our hero because he recognized the importance of our Constitutional rights and freedoms. The federal judge said what many of us wanted to say since the pandemic started – what is happening to all of us is based on little or no real scientific facts.
Allen West is a hero for standing for the Constitution and being present in court for the arguments. No one is more disenfranchised than Allen West by all of the RPT court shenanigans. West stood for the Constitution and business owners unfairly shut down by arbitrary orders.
Dickey has just provided feckless leadership, bad lawyering, and political decisions that align with a continued shutdown of our economy and mail ballots for all.
So, when you see nonsense from SREC member Warren Norred, take it with a grain of salt. It is clear that the RPT did everything to torpedo an in-person convention to further the establishment, Rove agenda.