TRO filed against Cameron County Sheriff to remain

Another hearing on TRO scheduled for Tuesday

Judge Gloria Rincones, of the 445th state District Court, ruled Friday that a Temporary Restraining Order petition filed against Cameron County Sheriff Eric Garza will remain in place at least until Tuesday.

Rincones issued the ruling during an emergency hearing Friday requested by Garza. He had also requested the TRO against him be dissolved.

The Cameron County Commissioners Court filed the TRO against Garza last week alleging he is taking actions beyond his duties as sheriff. The Commissioners Court Civil Legal Division said it had no choice but to file the suit because Garza acted outside the scope of his legal authority

Attorney Jonathan Almanza, who represented Garza, said during the emergency hearing that among the reasons why the TRO should be dissolved is because it does not allow the sheriff to coordinate with courthouse security.

“Another incident that has occurred, your honor, and I want to acknowledge to the court, is that there was an unintentional violation of this temporary restraining order. The sheriff on Monday, transported inmates to the courthouse and had to coordinate with courthouse security in order to transport inmates to the county courthouse,” Almanza said.

“As of this coming Monday, there is another scheduled transport for these inmates and as written, the TRO doesn’t allow the sheriff’s office to deliver those inmates and coordinate with courthouse security.”

Almanza also said a memorandum of understanding is not an enforceable contract against an elected official or government entity and that the way the MOU is written has no end date and no provisions regarding how to renew. When it comes to the temporary restraining order, he said it creates a dangerous situation that interferes with the sheriff’s duties.

“The TRO, as written, exceeds both the authority of the commissioners court and the MOU itself is not an enforceable agreement. The TRO has a provision that allows the sheriff to take over courthouse security in emergency situations, so the MOU has a provision that governs the elected sheriff retaking authority over courthouse security,” he said.

“This TRO creates a dangerous situation and interferes with the sheriff’s constitutional duties, as he is prevented from coordinating or responding with any incident that occurs at the courthouse.”

Attorney Daniel Lopez, who represented Cameron County Commissioners Court, said the Texas Local Government Code states that the “proper safe keeping of prisoners are under the exclusive direction and control of the Sheriff” and that it is very clear that the commissioners court cannot interfere.

“Opposing counsel keeps trying to say that it’s the sheriff’s constitutional duty, a statutory duty, and it’s his exclusive duty, but I would say no,” he said.

Rincones said the TRO will remain in place with the provision number three vacated because it clearly prevented either side from coming to the table and try to fix the problem.

“The two sides need to communicate and get this ball going, you need to make this work. Everybody knows on both sides what the problem is, everybody knows on both sides what needs to be done to fix the problem, let’s fix the problem,” the judge said.

Rincones also said there are procedures to follow to make sure that everything is done right. She will decide whether or not the TRO will remain in place at the next hearing, which is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 4 p.m.

“There is no reason why Commissioner’s Court thinks that its got power over the sheriff or the sheriff thinks that he can’t do what he did, without having to go to Commissioner’s Court to change the classifications and budget, we can’t think that (way,) we have to follow procedures to make sure everything is done right,” she said.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com