Judge Could Still End Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Trial Before Jury Is Selected

The trial got underway Tuesday with a hearing to determine how the case will proceed.


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For the next three to four weeks, the Harris County Civil Courthouse will be the stage for the trial over Houston’s controversial equal rights ordinance.


If everything works out according to plan, opening statements will begin next Tuesday.

That is, unless Judge Robert Schaffer comes back with a summary judgment ruling that would end the trial before it has started.

That’s what attorneys for the city hope for. One of them is Geoffrey Harrison with the firm Susman Godfrey LLP.

“I think that the clear legal entitlement is that the plaintiffs’ petition failed, that the plaintiffs and their coalition members did not comply with the election code and the City Charter, and so summary judgment throwing out their case is appropriate,” Harrison said.

Opponents of the equal rights ordinance allege the city wrongly invalidated thousands of signatures on their petition for a referendum on the law.

Andy Taylor represents the plaintiffs. He said the city’s arguments are not new and won’t change the judge’s mind.

“I think they’re just having a hard time accepting the fact that the mayor is going to have to go before a jury of her peers and reconcile why it is that she had trumped-up reasons to stiff-arm the voters,” he said.

The judge last week granted the plaintiffs’ request for a jury trial.

During Tuesday’s four-hour hearing, the different sides also discussed the number of potential jurors, among other procedural matters.

Jury selection is set to start on Monday, Jan. 26.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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