Texas High Court Chief Justice Wife Pens
Majority Opinion for SB 4 Block Extension

Capitol Inside
March 26, 2024

Governor Greg Abbott and his GOP allies lost another round on Wednesday in a fight to save a migrant deportation law when a federal appeals court kept a roadblock in place in a ruling that a former Texas Supreme Court justice who's a Republican defended.

A three-member panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to prevent the controversial measure that Texas Republican lawmakers packed into Senate Bill 4 for at least another week. The court set the next hearing on the Texas law set for April 3.

Appellate Judge Priscilla Richman wrote the majority opinion as a George W. Bush judicial appointee who's married to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who's also a Republican.

Judge Andrew Oldham - a former Abbott general counsel in the governor's office - penned a dissenting opinion in a ruling that covered 121 pages. A Virginia native who attended Harvard law school, Oldham is a Donald Trump appointee to the appeals court that's based in New Orleans.

Oldham argued that the state had a right to take action on its own after the Biden administration failed to follow congressional directives on immigration enforcement.

"And that means the State is forever helpless: Texas can do nothing because Congress apparently did everything, yet federal non-enforcement means Congress' everything is nothing," Oldham said.

But Richman offered a straight-forward explanation on why she voted to block SB 4 from taking effect in her home state.

"For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration — the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens — is exclusively a federal power," Richman said.

Richman served with Abbott on the state's highest court for four years before Bush selected her for the New Orleans-based appellate court in 2005. Richman was born in Palacios on the south Texas coast and grew up on a farm in Matagorda County.

Richman received undergraduate and law degrees from Baylior University. She married Hecht in April 2022.

Justice Irma Carrillo Ramirez, who President Joe Biden appointed, sided with Richman in the extension of the blockade on SB 4.

The appeals panel blocked SB 4 initially 10 days ago after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to enforce the new law for a period that spanned nine hours. The law would give state and local police the ability to arrest migrants who would have the option of jail time here or deportation.

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