coronavirus screening in China An official checks the temperature of visitors before they enter a government office in Macau, China, on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Photo: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

Existing outside counsel relationships with the city of San Antonio won the business for the lawyers who are fighting to keep in place the coronavirus quarantine in San Antonio.

The city tapped Clarissa M. Rodriguez, partner at Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal & Zech in San Antonio. It filed quick litigation after a woman was released from quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, only to be called back when a coronavirus test came back positive.

Denton Navarro, a 20-lawyer firm with four Texas offices, specializes in serving as outside city attorneys and general counsel for Texas municipalities and other government entities. The city of San Antonio has used the firm and its attorneys to defend lawsuits in the past, and handle police and firefighter grievances.

Rodriguez, who declined to comment, earned her law degree from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2006. She was licensed in Texas that same year. She practices as a city attorney and general counsel, handles litigation, and performs police and fire labor negotiations, among other things, according to her law firm profile.

Other lawyers for the plaintiffs are Denton Navarro partner Patrick Charles Bernal of San Antonio, Deputy San Antonio City Attorney Deborah Lynne Klein and Dykema Gossett member Donna K. McElroy of San Antonio. They each didn’t return calls or emails seeking comment.

On the other side, Assistant U.S. Attorney Clayton R. Diedrichs of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio is representing the defendants.

Restraining order denied

The litigation hit a snag Monday when U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez denied a temporary restraining order, and ruled that the U.S. government had authority to make and enforce regulations to stop the spread of communicable diseases. The judge declined to second-guess those determinations but noted he shares the plaintiffs’ concerns about coronavirus.

The motion requesting the restraining order that Clarissa Rodriguez filed for the city noted that she will file a complaint as soon as possible but was asking for the order because of a potential public-health emergency.

Lackland has served as the quarantine zone for 91 Americans evacuated from China and 144 passengers of a Japanese cruise ship. Ninety of the China evacuees never got symptoms and already went home. The government planned to release more on March 2.

But Feb. 29, a person was released who had gotten coronoavirus, recovered from it, and then tested negative two times. After her release, a third test came back positive. But she had already gone to a mall, ate in its food court and spent hours among the public. Now she’s back in quarantine at Lackland.

The city was asking the court to keep the quarantine in place for now and to order the defendants to test people for coronavirus three times before releasing them. The plaintiffs wanted a clear outline of the release protocols to be shared between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State of Texas and the city of San Antonio. They were asking for better communication before people come out of quarantine.

The court’s order denying the TRO noted that the defendants’ position is that the state of Texas, Bexar County and the city of San Antonio can use their emergency declarations powers to authorize their own quarantine orders.

“The United States government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine. That is disappointing. Nonetheless, plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order is denied,” said the order.

No one from the San Antonio City Attorney’s office immediately returned a call for comment about next steps in the litigation.

The San Antonio Express-News reported on Tuesday that the government was releasing 120 evacuees from Lackland who had never exhibited signs of the coronavirus during their 14-day quarantines. Anyone who had tested positive for coronavirus remained in isolation and weren’t set for release on Tuesday, the article said.


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