The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Shelley Luther’s release from jail, where a Dallas judge sent the local salon owner two days ago for reopening her business against state restrictions. An “overwhelmed” Luther tearfully thanked applauding supporters outside the jail after her release, speaking with a black mask fastened over her face.
The court’s emergency decision came after Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) issued an executive order earlier on Thursday retroactively suspending any local regulations that would result in jail time over noncompliance with state restrictions implemented to combat COVID-19. “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 announced the day after Luther’s sentencing.
Abbott Spokesman John Whitaker told The Federalist that the EO does not bar local law enforcement from issuing fines or suspending licenses of those who are not yet authorized to reopen businesses.
District Judge Eric Moyé hit Luther with a seven-day jail sentence and $7,000 fine on Tuesday over contempt of court charges after she ignored a restraining order that prohibited her from opening Salon À la Mode. Luther had been operating the business with social distancing measures in place, explaining in court, “I have no choice. I need to feed my family, and my stylists could not feed their families.”
Luther, who opened her salon on April 24, ripped up a county judge’s cease-and-desist letter on Friday, speaking at one of the several rallies she’s attended in recent weeks. “You have rights to feed your children and make income. And anyone that wants to take away those rights is wrong,” Luther said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Luther’s jail sentence a “misguided abuse of power.” In a Thursday statement on his executive order, Abbott said, “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. That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order.”
A GoFundMe set up on April 23 to benefit Luther and her employees had raised more than $500,000 by Thursday evening.