Tuesday afternoon, Dallas County Civil District Court Judge Eric Moye sent Shelley Luther to jail for seven days. Despite the paltry sentence, Luther's case drew national attention because, over the past couple of weeks, she's become a patron saint for the movement to free Texas from novel coronavirus-inspired restrictions.
Luther chose to open her North Dallas salon, Salon A La Mode, late last month, despite city, county and state regulations banning here from doing so. Luther received a cease-and-desist order from the county after reopening.
She tore it up at a rally April 25 and kept her business open, leading to her being summoned to Moye's court.
Moye offered Luther a possible way out, saying that he would consider only giving her a fine if she would apologize and agree not to reopen Salon A La Mode until it was legal to do so. Luther declined.
“Feeding my kids is not selfish,” she told Moye. “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.”
The judge fined Luther $7,000 and gave her the week in jail for contempt of court. Almost immediately, Texas' Republican elected officials took to social media to defend Luther.
7 days in jail for cutting hair?? This is NUTS. And government officials don’t get to order citizens to apologize to them for daring to earn a living. https://t.co/3rulRlN0gE— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 6, 2020
As social media anger flowed against Moye Tuesday night, the Texas District and County Attorney's Association pointed out that Luther hadn't been placed in jail for cutting hair. Luther picked up her sentence for contempt of court by violating a court order and then failing to take the escape hatch offered by Moye.
We won't fault laypersons for misstating what is going on in the Dallas salon case b/c a contempt finding is an unusual event, but seeing lawyers mislead their followers to score political/social media points in their never-ending game of spin is ... disappointing. #txlege— TDCAA (@TDCAA) May 6, 2020
Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called for Luther's immediate release from jail, saying that she'd been locked up "for operating her hair salon."
“I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table,” Paxton said. “The trial judge did not need to lock up Shelley Luther. His order is a shameful abuse of judicial discretion, which seems like another political stunt in Dallas. He should release Ms. Luther immediately.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Moye's actions excessive, echoing Paxton and Cruz's arguments.
"I join the Attorney General in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas Judge, putting Shelley Luther in jail for seven days. As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option," Abbott said. "Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he would pay Luther's fine and, if possible, serve seven days of house arrest to cover her sentence.
7 days in jail, no bail and a $7K fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7K fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under House Arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids. #txlege #TexansHelpingTexans https://t.co/gdtMLAHFV5— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 6, 2020
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Luther remained in Dallas County Jail. Texas salons can officially reopen Friday.