By Ian White
THE COUNTY’S top judge, Lonnie Cox, called on the state’s supreme court to refuse to consider a petition by county judge Mark Henry’s when he filed his response to the appeal in the so-called Bonnie Quiroga case on Monday.
Cox, who sits in Galveston’s 56th district court, had been given 30 days to file the response after declining the opportunity to do so when Henry and his colleagues on the county commissioners’ court filed their petition in February.
The petition seeks the supreme court’s review of a decision by a three-judge panel of the state’s first court of appeals that upheld an injunction against the county issued by visiting judge Sharolyn Wood in July last year.
The injunction forbids the county from taking any action to reconstruct its justice administration department, whose director Quiroga served both the legislative and judicial branches of local government before being fired summarily by Henry in July 2014.
In her ruling on the case, which began when Cox issued an order declaring the termination illegal and void, Wood also ordered Henry to face trial on a charge of contempt for refusing to comply with Cox’s declaration.
In his 55-page response, Cox argues through his counsel, Galveston-based Mark Stevens, that Henry has misrepresented both the trial and appellate court’s decisions in the case.
In the latter, all three judges signed their order, although one wrote an accompanying opinion in which he partially dissented, holding that Wood had exceeded her authority when ordering the county to reinstate Quiroga at her former salary.
Stevens further maintains that to grant a review would be a grave disservice to the principle of the separation of powers between the executive and judicial arms of local government even if it affirmed the trial and appeals court’s decisions.
The supreme court also received an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Texas Conference Of Urban Counties on Monday.
The Austin-based nonprofit organization, which represents 38 counties claimed to house some 80 per cent of the state’s population, calls on the supreme court to grant the county’s petition and reverse the appeal court’s judgment.