Impeached Texas AG Ken Paxton seeks to have most charges dismissed before September trial

31 July 2023

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lawyers for impeached Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday sought to have most of the charges against him dismissed, arguing that they rely on alleged acts of corruption before he was reelected to a third term in 2022.

In motions filed with the Senate, where Paxton’s impeachment trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 5, his attorneys said they believe state law bars the removal of an official for conduct that occurred before their most recent election. Paxton was first elected attorney general in 2014 and the impeachment charges include alleged conduct since then.

“The Articles allege nothing that Texas voters have not heard from the Attorney General’s political opponents for years,” Paxton’s attorneys wrote. They accused the GOP-dominated Texas House of Representatives of seeking to oust Paxton because they were unable to unseat him by popular vote.

“Texas voters rendered their judgement by re-electing Attorney General Paxton to serve a third consecutive term. As a matter of both common sense and Texas law, that should be the end of the matter,” his attorneys wrote.

Only one of the 20 impeachment charges — an allegation that Paxton settled a whistleblower lawsuit in an effort to hide from the public corruption allegations against him — would not have to be dismissed under the so-called “prior term doctrine,” Paxton’s attorney said. Paxton asked state lawmakers this year to have the state pay the proposed $3.3 million settlement.

In a second filing, Paxton’s attorneys said the trial should exclude any evidence of alleged conduct that occurred prior to January 2023, when his third term in office began.

The motions from Paxton’s attorneys are similar to moves in a criminal or civil legal cases when defense attorneys seek to have charges or lawsuits dismissed before trial.

In this case, the presiding officer over Paxton’s impeachment trial will be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a powerful Republican who also serves as the president of the state Senate. The Republican-controlled Senate will consider the evidence and decide whether to convict or acquit Paxton in the first impeachment trial of a statewide official since 1917.

Patrick has already issued a sweeping gag order over the parties and attorneys involved ahead of the Senate trial. Attorneys for House of Representatives managers prosecuting Paxton did not immediately respond to the motions filed Monday.

Paxton has been suspended from office since the House first approved the articles of impeachment on May 27. He could be permanently removed if convicted by the Senate.

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