At the beginning of last week, a prominent Houston physician and highly influential Republican big-wig, Steven Hotze, filed an amended complaint and a request for emergency complaint against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to overturn the Mayor’s decision stopping the GOP’s state convention from taking place live in the convention center. The basis of the lawsuit was that the Mayor violated the free speech and assembly rights of the GOP conventioneers.
Initially, the rub was that the state GOP had elected not to join the lawsuit and had decided to go forward with a virtual convention on Thursday, July 16th. Based on the GOP’s decision not to join the lawsuit and proceed with a virtual convention, federal district judge Lynn Hughes denied Hotze’s request. According to a Hotze press release issued after the ruling, Judge Hughes said that Mayor Turner’s actions were in fact unconstitutional, but that since the GOP was not a party, there was nothing he could do. (It might have been a standing issue, or a practical issue that the convention was already set to take place virtually. I haven’t read the decision.)
However, the rub to the rub was that because of technical difficulties, the convention did not start on Thursday. Because of these technical difficulties and most likely because of the intensive pressure put on the party by the aforementioned Dr. Steven Hotze, the GOP changed its mind, and decided to join in the lawsuit.
Hotze’s attorneys filed a motion to reconsider, got a hearing yesterday, and Judge Hughes issued an injunction permitting the GOP to hold its convention live in the convention center/ stopping Turner from barring it.
But we’re not done yet!
Notwithstanding the granting of the injunction, the GOP is still going to try to do the convention virtually, starting later today. Here is a recent article about this mess.
The Mayor’s office has filed a request for an emergency stay and is appealing Judge Hughes decision. But the appeal should become moot if the virtual convention goes forward, as it appears to have done, and that would probably be best. Constitutional rights, even the First Amendment are not absolute, and as I often say, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. The conventional center is just the kind of place health officials think act as super spreaders. Yes, no one said boo when protesters were chanting BLM, but that was outdoors, which may be the critical difference. I know and respect Judge Lynn Hughes, but I think he got this one wrong.
(this is a revised and shorter version of the original post)
Rick Jaffe, Esq.