The Texas Supreme Court today rejected Republican Party of Texas’s (“RPT”) attempt to force the City of Houston to hold its 2020 State Convention amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. The City of Houston terminated its agreement to license the George R. Brown Convention Center under a force majure clause in the agreement, citing the “unprecedented scope and severity of the COVID-19 epidemic in Houston.
RPT asserted claims for breach of contract against the Houston parties and requested specific performance and an injunction prohibiting termination. The trial court denied RPT’s application for a temporary restraining order and set a full day hearing for injunction on July 13. Before the injunction hearing, RPT filed the application for a writ of mandamus with the Texas Supreme Court.
In its per curiam opinion, the Court rejected RPT’s argument that Section 271.061 of the Election Code allowed the Court to issue a writ of mandamus. That section provides that the Court may “issue a writ of mandamus to compel the performance of any duty imposed by law in connection with the holding of an election or a political convention, regardless of whether the person responsible for performing the duty is a public officer.” That section, however, defines “law” as “a constitution, statute, city charter, or city ordinance.” Houston First did not owe a duty to RPT under any of those – hence, the court rejected RPT’s contentions. The Court found that Houston First’s duties were imposed by contract, not by law.
In conclusion, the Court stated that despite “troubling factual allegations,” RPT’s petition did not properly invoke the Court’s authority and, accordingly, dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. The opinion is available HERE.