As one of the senior members of the McLennan County Bar, I was personally relieved that Ken Paxton was impeached and therefore suspended as Texas’ Attorney General. Every lawyer I have talked to agrees.
Paxton has been under indictment for years for alleged securities fraud violations and is accused of using his office to delay any trial in that case. He has also been sued by eight lawyers who formerly worked for him after he fired them for reporting or “whistleblowing” actions which he had taken which those eight attorneys believed constituted bribery and abuse of process. On top of that, he is currently being sued for professional misconduct by the State Bar of Texas. The Texas Attorney General is not only the top law enforcement officer in our state, he is the lawyer who represents the State of Texas. Ken Paxton’s incredible resume of alleged misconduct mandates that he be suspended as Attorney General while a full hearing is held in front of the Texas Senate who determines if he should remain in office.
Out local representative, Doc Anderson, voted against Paxton’s impeachment stating that he didn’t have enough time to study the Articles of Impeachment, which are only nine pages long. Nevertheless, Paxton was impeached by the Texas House in a 123 to 21 vote. All of the Texas Democrats and many of the Texas Republicans, including Angelia Orr who represents East and South Waco, voted in favor of his impeachment. All that means is that the Texas House thinks that there should be a trial in the Texas Senate to determine if Ken Paxton should remain in office. Just like in our federal system, if the House impeaches, a trial is held in the Senate.
It is important to remember that a “trial” in the Texas Senate is very different from a trial in federal or state court. It is not a trial on the merits where the accused is determined to be innocent or guilty. It is merely a determination of whether or not the accused should remain in office. Ken Paxton could be found guilty in the Texas Senate and never spend one night in jail, loose his law license or be ordered to pay one penny in damages or fines. The only consequence of a finding of guilt would be his removal from office. He would also be prohibited from ever holding elected office in Texas again. Impeachments under our federal system require the U.S. Senate find the accused guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. However, under the Texas Constitution, the Texas Senate need only find the accused unfit for office.
Since an impeachment trial is a political proceeding, not a civil or criminal trial, it is important to examine the politics in the Texas Senate. The Texas Senate consists of 31 Senators - 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. One of the Republicans is Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife. Our Texas Constitution requires that the Senators, who act effectively as jurors, be impartial. It will be quite interesting to see if Angela Paxton recuses herself from serving as a juror in her husband’s impeachment trial. Since her husband needs every single vote he can get, her recusal decision is extremely consequential. In a civil or criminal trial, a Defendant’s spouse would never be allowed to be a juror. If Angela Paxton refuses to recuse herself, she will be violating the Texas Constitution.
Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial is scheduled to begin no later than August 28, 2023, long before any of the many legal proceedings against him have been adjudicated. However, if I was going to have surgery and I learned that my surgeon was being sued on multiple very serious allegations, including a suit by the Texas Medical Board, I would find a different doctor. I believe that Ken Paxton’s allegations are so serious and consequential, that he should be removed by impeachment in the Texas Senate as Texas’ Attorney General. The great State of Texas needs a new lawyer.
Published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 6/8/2023