TX Lawyers Call for Disbarment of ‘Unethical’ AG Paxton

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Texas AG Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. CBS Photo

Sixteen Texas lawyers, including four former State Bar of Texas presidents, have filed a complaint urging bar regulators to suspend or permanently disbar Texas Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. from practice.

Citing “serious ethical misconduct,” the filers of the 31-page complaint condemned Paxton for filing a Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in four states, urging Americans to march on the Capitol in January to support then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, and violating professional and ethical standards.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which jointly filed the complaint with the State Bar of Texas, called it “an extraordinary repudiation of a Texas State Attorney General by leaders of the legal profession.”

Signers include Randall Chapman, the former chair of the Texas Supreme Court’s Grievance Oversight Committee; former Texas Assistant Attorney General Judy Doran; former Travis County Attorney David Escamilla; former Mexican American Bar Association of Texas president Maria Luisa Flores; and Texas Civil Rights Project founder James C. Harrington.

The complaint recounts the details of an ultimately rejected lawsuit Paxton filed in December 2020, in which he asked the Supreme Court to bar Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin from using presidential election results to appoint electors, instead requiring legislatures in the states to appoint new electors, or none at all.

“If given the power to appoint their own electors, the State legislatures predictably would have appointed electors who would cast their ballots for candidate Trump in the Electoral College,” the complaint reads.

“Alternatively, if the legislatures had appointed no electors, Mr. Trump would have won in the Electoral College, because there would have been no electors voting for Mr. Biden from those four states.

“In either case, granting the relief Mr. Paxton sought would have overturned the results of the presidential election, converting the loser, Mr. Trump, into the winner.”

This isn’t the first time Paxton, a Republican, has been in the spotlight for alleged ethics violations, reports The New York Times. In November 2020, aides accused Paxton of bribery and corruption after he appointed a special prosecutor to look into investor Nate Paul’s allegations that law enforcement acted unlawfully in raiding Paul’s home and offices in 2019.

Paul, a friend of Paxton’s, contributed $25,000 to Paxton’s re-election campaign in 2018, reports The Texas Tribune. This accusation of wrongdoing, which prompted calls for Paxton’s resignation, came a few years after a Texas grand jury indicted him on charges of securities fraud and of failing to register with the state securities board in 2015.

In the most serious charge, Paxton was accused of encouraging investors in 2011 to put over $600,000 into Servergy, a technology company, while failing to tell them he was making a commission on their investment, and misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company, reports The Times. That case was not without several controversies.

The Times reported in 2015:

Before the indictment, a spokesman for Mr. Paxton, Anthony Holm, was outspoken in defending Mr. Paxton. He characterized the case as a political witch hunt, suggested that an anti-Paxton blogger had engaged in jury tampering, and questioned the special prosecutors’ eagerness for news coverage and their impartiality as criminal defense lawyers.

The recent complaint concerning the “frivolous” lawsuit Paxton filed urges the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel to investigate the allegations outlined, along with allegations against Paxton recounted in other complaints, and “initiate the necessary proceedings to suspend or disbar him.”

“Such conduct cannot be accepted from any person licensed to practice law in the United States, much less a sitting State Attorney General,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Paxton’s post-dismissal, unethical conduct was serious in its own right. Demonstrating a pattern of ethical misconduct, it made his prior conduct in the Supreme Court lawsuit even more egregious.”

To read the full, 31-page complaint, click here.

Eva Herscowitz is a TCR Justice Reporting intern.

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