On Tuesday, May 5, Dallas County Judge Eric V. Moyé sentenced salon owner Shelley Luther to seven days in jail and a $7,000 fine for reopening her salon despite the state’s stay-at-home orders. Luther reopened her salon on April 24 and received a citation from police, which she publicly tore up at a protest the next day.
On May 5, she appeared in court and was found by Judge Moyé to be criminally and civilly in contempt of court. Since the sentencing, Moyé has been receiving criticism for the decision, including from the governor of Texas and the attorney general, who are calling for her release from jail.
Update (May 7, 2020): Luther has been released from jail following Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 executive order amendment. The amendment “eliminate[s] confinement as a punishment for violating the order.” In a statement about the amendment, Abbott said:
Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen. As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.
Here’s what you need to know about Judge Eric Moyé:
1. Moyé Sentenced Luther to 7 Days in Prison & Called Her Actions ‘Selfish’
Moyé found Luther to be in criminal and civil contempt of the court for her actions in reopening her salon, especially “the refusal of the defendants to cease operation of the salon, despite the clear and unambiguous language of the order.” He added, “The defiance of the court’s order was open, flagrant and intentional. The defendants, although having been given an opportunity to do so, have expressed no contrition, remorse or regret for their contemptuous action.”
The judge told Luther that her actions were selfish and she could avoid jail time if she showed remorse, closed her salon and apologized for her actions. Luther responded that she could not comply with that request: “I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish, because feeding my kids is not selfish. So, sir, if you think the law’s more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision. But I am not going to shut the salon.”
After the sentencing, Luther was immediately taken into custody to serve her seven days in jail.
2. Moyé Has Been Receiving Criticism for the Sentence, Including From Texas Officials
After Moyé sentenced Luther to seven days of jail time, he received a lot of criticism, including from Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. According to The New York Times, Paxton sent a letter to Moyé on Wednesday, May 6, calling for Luther’s release. The letter reads in part:
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.
According to The Times, Gov. Greg Abbott has also issued a similar statement calling for Luther’s release. Moyé has also received criticism from others, especially on social media:
3. Moyé Has Been a Judge for Over 25 Years & Currently Presides Over the 14th Judicial District Court of Texas in Dallas County
As per his website, Moyé was first appointed as a judge in 1992 by Gov. Ann Richards, and he served as a Judge of the 101st Judicial District Court. He was elected to the 14th Judicial District Court of Texas in Dallas County in November 2008, where he has served since. As a judge, he has presided over more than 1,000 cases in matters of personal injuries, commercial and civil cases.
Before his judicial career, Moyé worked as a lawyer and gained over 25 years of civil legal experience. He worked in commercial litigation, representing small and large businesses. He was a lawyer for various firms before becoming a founding Partner of Vincent & Moyé, P.C.
4. Moyé Received His Law Degree at Harvard Law School in 1979 & Is a Lifelong Democrat
Moyé graduated with distinction from Southen Methodist University in 1976 with a bachelor of arts. He then attended Harvard Law School, where he obtained his J.D. in 1979. After graduating from law school, he returned to Dallas and started practicing. He is very involved in the legal community, sitting on the Founding Board of the University of North Texas School of Law and is active in the Harvard Club of Dallas. He is the former President of the Harvard Law School Association of Texas and a founding board member of the Dispute Mediation Service of Dallas.
The 65-year-old judge is a politically active Democrat, having served on many Democratic campaigns, including as a Delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
5. He Is a Father & Grandfather, Born in 1954 & Raised in New York
Moyé was born on August 22, 1954, and he grew up in New York City until 1972 when he left to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He has a daughter named Amy, who is married with two daughters. Moyé has posted pictures of his daughter and grandkids on his Facebook, including at White House events.
Moyé is very involved in community service and volunteers with many organizations, including Habitat for Humanity.