A Dallas salon owner was thrown in jail this week by a local judge after defying state restrictions ordering her business remain closed. Shelly Luther was fined $7,000 and ordered to seven days in jail by District Court Judge Eric Moye on Tuesday whose ruling has since become a nationwide controversy highlighting the growing tensions under lockdowns where government-mandated closings are throwing millions out of work.
Luther was released on Thursday however by the Texas Supreme Court which came just after the state’s Republican Governor, Greg Abbott issued an executive order retroactively suspending local ordinances that throw citizens in detention for noncompliance with local stay home orders.
“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 the day after Luther was given jail time.
Abbott Spokesman John Whitaker made clear in a statement to The Federalist however, that the governor’s executive order still allows local fines and other penalties such as license suspensions to be handed down to those who open without authorization, implying Luther may still have to pay $7,000.
Moye condemned Luther’s defiance as “selfish,” charging Luther with “putting your own interests ahead of the community in which you live.
“You disrespected the orders of the state, the county, and this city,” Moye told Luther.
The episode has become a rallying cry for opening up, where many on the Left supporting the lockdowns have flocked to Moye’s defense, while conservatives characterize the ruling as an authoritarian power-grab from the Democratic judge and prop up Luther as a heroine fighting to preserve civil liberties under stress from the pandemic. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz went to the salon for a haircut on Friday and Abbott discussed the matter with the president at the White House.
Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton also charged Moye’s ruling as “outrageous,” a view which was echoed across Republican state leaders and earned backlash from an array of district judges in Dallas County labeling the criticism “inappropriate” for an independent judiciary.
Local Dallas news media rushed to Moye’s defense, including WFAA’s Dale Hansen who said on the evening news, “I’m not defending Judge Moye because he’s a friend of mine. I’m defending him because he’s right.”
Luther’s case is not the only controversial case Moye has presided over. A Harvard-educated judge who has served on the bench for more than 25 years, Moye, a lifelong Democrat, also tossed a lawsuit that would have disqualified more than 100 Democrats from being listed on the ballot in 2018 because the local party chairwoman failed to sign candidate applications.
In 1992, Moye was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and almost secured a federal judgeship under the Clinton administration. Since then, Moye has still worked on “numerous” Democratic campaigns throughout his career.
Moye has also shared some harsh words toward Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for acting as a traitor his own African-American heritage for his critiques of the civil rights movement under President Ronald Reagan.
“I think there is a profound sense of despair,” Moye told the Washington Post in 2007. “In order to have disappointment you have to have high expectations. I think there were those who hoped he was going to blossom and develop. But I don’t think you know many African Americans, other than those who know him personally, who think he turned out all right.”
To this day, Moye also remains active in satellite Harvard groups, including the Harvard Club of Dallas and serves as the president of the Harvard Law School Association of Texas.