FILE: El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego

County Judge: Covid-19 Stay at Home Order ‘valid, legal, and enforcable’

Friday afternoon, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego released a statement regarding Thursday’s ‘Stay at Home Order’ and the subsequent, ongoing controversy in it’s wake, including a now-public spat with Mayor Dee Margo.

Below is the complete text from Judge Samaniego’s release:
We are in a medical crisis and it is important that the public focus on their individual responsibility and personal actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  Yesterday, I issued a 2- week Stay at Home Order based on the advice of local health professionals. That Order is valid, legal and enforceable. I call on the public to follow the Order. I call on law enforcement to enforce the Order. I call on the Mayor and  the City Council to join me in ensuring that this Order is followed.

Later today, I will release a legal opinion that sets forth the legal basis for my authority to issue this Order that I urge the Mayor and City Council to consider.  On Monday, I will meet with Commissioners Court and ask for authority to discuss all legal options to do what is in the best interest of El Paso during this crisis.  I am aware of the letter sent to the Mayor from the Texas Attorney General regarding yesterday’s shut down order.  With all due respect, I disagree with the Mayor.  As a matter of law, the Attorney General’s letter does not carry any legal weight. It is just an informal letter from the attorney general. Only a court can decide if my order is invalid and I firmly believe that a court will not do so.

As of this morning, we received a lawsuit, however until such time that a Court orders otherwise, my order still stands.  All businesses are required to follow my order. Any business in violation of my order can be cited.  Moreover, State law provides that to the extent of a conflict between decisions of a County Judge or Mayor the decision of the County Judge prevails.  We each have an obligation to do everything possible to support our health care professionals, those who are sick, and those who will become sick to stop the spread of this virus.

Thank you to all the businesses who have, on their own, realized that the shutdown is the right thing to do for the community.  The City of El Paso has been a trusted partner during this critical time, we ask that they join us as we move forward to do what is in the best interest of our community.

Ricardo A. Samaniego

El Paso County Judge