(The Center Square) – The Texas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that recently jailed Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther, who refused to apologize to city officials for opening her business that officials deemed nonessential, be released.
The court’s decision came one day after U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, U.S. Rep Chip Roy and others called for her to be released, and after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered to be put under house arrest in her stead and deposited $7,000 worth of legal fees into her GoFundMe account. The account has raised more than $500,400 for Luther and her employees so far.
The week of April 20, Luther opened her Salon À la Mode two days in a row. The next week, Dallas city officials sued Luther and filed a restraining order against her for violating city/county shelter-in-place orders.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins next sent Luther a cease-and-desist letter ordering the closure of her salon. Within 24 hours, she tore the letter in front of television cameras.
May 1 she opened her salon again, participated in an Open Texas rally, and reopened her salon again May 2.
By May 5, Luther was sentenced to seven days in county jail and fined $7,000 for refusing to comply with the county’s order.
At the hearing, Dallas County Judge Eric Moye offered to drop the jail time and impose only a fine if Luther apologized. She "owe[s] an apology to the elected officials,” to whom she “disrespected for flagrantly ignoring and, in one case, defiling their orders, which you now know obviously applies to you," Moye said.
Luther refused to apologize, which Moye said was selfish; arguing she was "putting your own interest ahead of those in the community in which you live."
She replied, “… feeding my kids is not selfish. So, sir, if you think the law’s more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision. But I am not going to shut the salon.”
She was then sent to jail.
The next day, the governor revised his executive order, dropping jail time for violators retroactively to April 2. By that time, two Laredo nail salon workers had already been arrested for violating the state’s order for providing beautician services in their home. They were arrested by undercover police officers.
"Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen," Abbott said in a statement. "That is why I'm modifying my executive order to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order."
The new revised order also allows salons to open Friday (May 8) and supersedes local orders. If it was applied correctly, Abbott said Wednesday, Luther could be freed from jail. She wasn’t.
On Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Dallas County to release Luther, granting her request for emergency relief. The county has no other option than to comply.
The petition for writ of habeas corpus remains pending before the court, it said in a statement.
In response to the order, State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Baytown, who previously tweeted that local and state government officials can’t arrest everyone who violates various orders, tweeted, “Done! Bam! Habeas Corpus granted. Go get an illegal haircut.”