A North Texan businesswoman, who for weeks took a stand for her rights and those of other business owners, was fined and jailed for violating a temporary restraining order issued against her and her business. The judge who issued the ruling, however, is still getting paid his full six-figure salary.
Since April 24, Salon A La Mode in Dallas County has been open, despite shelter-in-place orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as well as county and city officials prohibiting hair salons and other so-called “non-essential” businesses from being open during the Chinese coronavirus shutdowns.
In that time, the salon’s owner, Shelley Luther, has been given a citation from local officials and a cease-and-desist order from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, as well as a temporary restraining order from the City of Dallas. Throughout, Luther repeatedly said she would not close her business or pay the citation issued against her, and a movement of Texans has rallied around her as a hero defending individual liberty.
Last week, Abbott expressed interest in working with Luther to reopen hair salons earlier than his original mid-May timeline.
Luther’s hearing on the temporary restraining order—in Dallas County’s 14th District Court, presided over by District Judge Eric Moye—was held on May 5. Luther’s supporters gathered outside the court.
That same day, Abbott announced at a press conference that cosmetology salons, barber shops, and other related businesses could reopen on May 8 with restrictions.
Moye resumed the hearing after Abbott’s announcement and said a writ of mandamus appeal filed by Luther’s attorney, Warren Norred, had been denied.
“Hopefully, this experience has brought you to the realization that because you believe there’s something you want to do, you do not have the right to independently supersede state law,” Moye told Luther.
Moye then gave Luther an opportunity to decide the level of her own punishment by apologizing.
“If you would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that your actions were selfish, putting your own interests ahead of those in the community in which you live; that they disrespected the executive orders of the state, the orders of the county, and this city; that you now see the error of your ways and understand that the society cannot function when one’s own belief in the concept of liberty permits you to flaunt your disdain for the rulings of duly elected officials; that you owe an apology to the elected officials who you disrespected by flagrantly ignoring and, in one case, defiling their orders which you now know obviously regard to you; that you know the proper way in an ordered society to engage concerns you may have had is to hire a lawyer and advocate for change, an exception, or amendment to laws that you find offensive.”
Luther stood up and spoke in reply:
“I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish, because feeding my kids is not selfish. I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So, sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon.”
Upon hearing that, Moye handed down his judgement.
“It is hereby ordered, judged, and decreed the defendant Shelley Luther having been found in criminal contempt of this court is hereby remanded to the custody of the Sheriff of Dallas County as punishment for her violation of this court’s order,” he said.
Luther must serve seven days for criminal contempt of court and seven days for civil contempt of court, both to be served concurrently. The location of her imprisonment will be decided by the Dallas County sheriff.
She has also been fined $500 a day for the seven days she has been open—to be paid within 30 days of the court’s order— and will be fined $500 a day from May 5 until May 8.
Judge Moye, who makes $158,000 in state and local taxpayer compensation, was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards and is up for re-election this year.
Concerned citizens may sign a petition asking Abbott to pardon Luther.