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El Paso judge, mayor face off over legality of coronavirus shutdown order

El Paso judge, mayor face off over legality of coronavirus shutdown order
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El Paso, Texas, Mayor Dee Margo (R) is facing off with El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego after the judge ordered a shutdown of all nonessential businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ABC-7 reported on Friday that a lawsuit was filed challenging Samaniego’s order, just one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said on Twitter that his office was “quickly exploring all legal actions” over the order. 

"As of this morning, we received a lawsuit, however until such time that a Court orders otherwise, my order still stands,” Samaniego said, according to ABC-7. “All businesses are required to follow my order. Any business in violation of my order can be cited.” 

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According to the El Paso Times, Samaniego ordered all nonessential businesses in El Paso County, such as in-person dining, gyms and salons, to shut down for two weeks. 

Margo said on Twitter on Thursday that he sent a letter to Paxton asking him to weigh in on whether the city had to enforce the new order. He said that Samaniego “did not consult me and refuses to return my call” on the matter. 

“What I can speak to is the hurt our community is going through,” Margo tweeted. "We must strike a balance of keeping our neighbors safe while not destroying people’s abilities to feed their families.” 

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ABC-7 reported Thursday that Paxton’s office sent a response to Margo’s letter. According to the letter obtained by the news outlet, his office said the order was “unlawful and unenforceable,” and that it advised Samaniego to “immediately rescind or revise his order [or] face likely further legal action.” 

Paxton said on Twitter: "El Paso County Judge Samaniego has no authority to shut down businesses in El Paso County. This is a direct violation of @GovAbbott’s executive order. "My office is quickly exploring all legal actions."

Samaniego told ABC-7 on Friday that he felt the order was “valid, legal and enforceable.” He added that only a court can decide if the order was invalid, which he says is unlikely. 

The city of El Paso reported 1,347 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, for a total of 15,666 active cases, and 10 new deaths. There have been 47,052 cases in El Paso since the pandemic began, and 595 deaths.