Luther was sentenced to spend seven days in jail and fined $7,000 after she refused to close her “non-essential” hair salon. After nearly a month of lockdown, and with no end in sight, Luther knew she needed to provide food for her family. So on April 24, Salon À la Mode reopened with all necessary health and safety recommendations in practice.
Soon thereafter, Luther was issued a citation by the city followed by a cease-and-desist from the same judge who encouraged citizens to report any non-essential business that remained open, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Luther’s story quickly escalated with the city of Dallas filing suit against her, which then led to Dallas District Judge Eric Moye sentencing Luther to seven days in jail and $7,000 in fines. The sentence shocked the conscience of a nation.
Some Texans were already making noise to reopen the state, and news of this judgment sparked even more outrage towards the draconian rules that had been imposed as response to COVID-19. After just two nights in jail, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the Dallas County Sheriff to release Luther from custody.
Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton released public statements condemning Luther’s judgement prior to her release. Governor Abbott also retroactively modified his previous executive orders to eliminate the punishment of jail time for violations of coronavirus restrictions. Despite these efforts, Abbott’s modified orders may still not apply to Luther.
During the city of Dallas’ lawsuit against Luther, Judge Moye authorized a temporary restraining order (TRO), meaning that she would once again need to close her business until hair salons got the okay to reopen. When Luther continued to keep her salon open in direct violation of this TRO, Judge Moye issued a Judgment of Contempt and ordered for her confinement. Luther’s violation of the Judge’s TRO is the main reason she was placed in jail. However, if it were not for the overreach of local government to keep businesses closed and hunt for those that would not comply, Luther may not have been in this situation.
Luther’s story made local and national headlines, but it is far from the only example of local government overreach. Other mayors and county judges have also grieved liberty by issuing questionable and far-reaching commands, like Tarrant County’s executive order granting itself the power to “commandeer” private property or Harris County’s short-lived threat of fining people not wearing masks in public “up to $1,000.”
This sort of government overreach is not limited to the Lone Star State either. In fact, Republican members in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution on Friday May 8 in an attempt to push back on heavy-handed state and local rules and regulations. The resolution urges the Attorney General to review all such orders and take action against those that infringe on constitutional rights, emphasizing the need to rein them in.
In almost every corner of the country, opportunistic liberals are using the Coronavirus crisis to reshape American life and impose their restrictive views on the broader public. And people like Shelley Luther are suffering for it.
During the early days of the pandemic, we, as a society, took collective action to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. And that’s reasonable. But we did not agree to accept an authoritarian state indefinitely. The time has come to put away the nanny state and let our constitutional rights and liberties reclaim center stage.