Texas State Bar lawsuit progresses against AG Ken Paxton for attempted annulment of 2020 election


A Texas State Bar complaint against Attorney General Ken Paxton is progressing and will be heard by either a district court judge or an administrative panel, the plaintiffs said Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by the nonprofit Lawyers Defending American Democracy and 16 Texas attorneys, including four former presidents of the state bar. He alleges Paxton engaged in professional misconduct when he filed a December 2020 lawsuit in the United States Supreme Court seeking to overturn presidential election results in four battleground states. Plaintiffs say the lawsuit was frivolous, knowingly false and misleading.

The deadline for a decision on whether there is cause to proceed, mandated by Texas disciplinary procedural rules, was Sunday, and the plaintiffs were not notified of a dismissal.

“It’s a big step because it rarely happens,” said Jim Harrington, one of the Texas attorneys who joined the lawsuit and retired founder of the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project. lucrative that defends the right to vote. “I just know having been a lawyer for 50 years, it’s very rare.”

Paxton, in a statement, decried the Law Society’s investigation as politically motivated and said the group that filed the complaint was made up of “strategic deep blue Travis County lawyers and liberal activists.”

“Today it was disclosed that the State Bar of Texas is suing me,” Paxton said. “I am not surprised; everyone knows that this organization devotes all its time and money to anti-conservative causes. The left then launched a coordinated effort to attack me through its friends at the bar in the state of Texas.

Paxton added that 19 GOP-controlled states have backed his lawsuit in court filings and two Supreme Court justices have voted to take up the case.

He also accused the state bar of “intentionally waiting” for the complaint to be released in the middle of an election.

In last week’s primary, the Republican attorney general’s second term fell short of the 50%-plus-one threshold needed to avoid a runoff and will now face Lands Commissioner George P. Bush in the second-round runoff. May 24.

The Bush campaign has focused on Paxton’s legal troubles as a vulnerability for Republicans in Texas in the general election, warning it would give Democrats their first chance to win a statewide seat since 1994.

“Bottom line: This is just an attempt to manipulate the election,” Paxton said in his statement Tuesday. “But I’m not worried. I take their partisan attacks as a mark that I’m doing the right thing.

A spokeswoman for the Law Society declined to comment, citing the agency’s policy of keeping the complaints process confidential until and unless public sanctions are filed.

Under disciplinary rules, Paxton has 20 days to decide whether the case should be heard in a district court, where the proceedings are public, or by an evidence committee. If he chooses the panel of witnesses, the proceedings will remain private unless public sanctions are imposed. Dismissals or private sanctions are not made public.

Harrington rejected Paxton’s claim that the complaint was driven by political bias.

“That’s how he always is. Anyone who disagrees with him is on a political witch hunt of sorts,” he said. “I don’t care what a person’s policies are… We lawyers, it’s very clear that we have an ethical responsibility. It is very clear that we have to follow the rules.

The complaint is one of three against Paxton to be made public in the past 10 months. One was filed in June by a Democratic Party activist making similar allegations about his Supreme Court lawsuit and another was filed last month regarding a pressure campaign by Paxton to sway the court’s justices. of appeal in his favor in a major case involving prosecution for electoral fraud.

The Supreme Court quickly dismissed the 2020 lawsuit, finding the state of Texas lacked standing to intervene in other states’ elections. The petition contained numerous allegations that had already been refuted, including by former President Donald Trump’s own Justice Department, which found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Once Paxton has made his choice on the type of hearing he would prefer, a motion would have to be filed within 60 days, according to disciplinary rules.

Harrington said he hoped to see Paxton permanently lose his law license as a result of this process. Any legal action would not affect Paxton’s ability to serve as Attorney General, as membership is not required by law to hold the position.

“For the person who is supposed to be our state’s chief law enforcement officer to do this kind of nonsense, I just think it’s utterly wrong,” Harrington said.

Gary Ratner, co-founder of Lawyers Defending American Democracy and lead author of the complaint, agreed that “the harshest form of discipline would be appropriate.”

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