Tag Archives: Ken Paxton

Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.

Enough of the delays in Texas AG’s fraud case

Texans deserve to know whether their state’s attorney general is crooked.

Many of them believe that Ken Paxton is innocent of the charges leveled against him. Many others do not.

Meanwhile, Paxton’s pending trial on securities fraud is getting caught in a tangled web of legal wrangling that is threatening to delay justice well beyond what is reasonable.

A state appeals court has ruled that District Judge George Gallagher surrendered his jurisdiction in the matter when he moved the trial from Collin County to Harris County. State prosecutors are asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the lower-court ruling.

Meanwhile, the rest of the state — at least those of us who care about such matters — is waiting to hear whether the Republican attorney general is guilty of defrauding investors before he became the state’s top law enforcement official.

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/02/paxton-prosecutors-want-high-court-overturn-judge-removal/

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals ordered Gallagher to vacate all rulings related to the Paxton case, including the one that set his trial for September. That means the trial likely will be delayed again.

Meanwhile, the 2018 election is coming up. Paxton likely will want to run for re-election. Does he submit himself to voters once again while awaiting trial for securities fraud?

Voters’ trust in government isn’t too high as it is. Foot-dragging and legal maneuvering such as this only worsens it.

Let the Texas AG’s trial commence … and conclude

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office under a cloud.

The cloud remains. It’s still hovering over the Republican politician. Perhaps a trial jury will remove that cloud — one way or another — beginning Sept. 12.

Paxton is going to stand trial on felony charges of securities fraud. A trial judge moved the case from Collin County to Harris County, apparently believing prosecutors’ contention that Paxton’s legal team had tainted the trial jury pool, giving him an unfair advantage.

The AG is accused of misleading investors prior to his taking office in 2015. If convicted, he faces a potential prison term of 99 years.

This change of venue surprises me mildly. Prosecutors had argued that Paxton’s counsel somehow had sought some unfair advantage, given that the attorney hails from Collin County, just north of Dallas.

Why the surprise? Well, a Collin County grand jury managed to indict Paxton more than a year ago. The grand jurors were Paxton’s homies, too, just as a trial jury pool would have been. The notion that a grand jury would indict a former state legislator from that very county seemed to suggest that the county was capable of producing a qualified panel of trial jurors when the time came for it.

The judge, George Gallagher, saw it differently. That’s his call. Hey, he’s the legal eagle, right?

So, the case moves to Harris County, to Houston. Judge Gallagher has set a 10-day time limit for this case to conclude once the trial commences. Of course, the Sept. 12 start date well could be subject to change — perhaps even multiple changes before Paxton gets this case adjudicated.

Let the trial begin. Paxton deserves the chance to remove the cloud that’s hung over him since before he took office.

For that matter, so do millions of other Texans who believe their state’s chief law enforcer should be above reproach.

Texas AG handed surprising setback

Ken Paxton wanted to be tried by a jury of his peers in his home county in Texas.

State lawyers who are prosecuting him on charges of securities fraud said the Texas attorney general’s legal team had poisoned the jury pool and asked the judge for a change of venue.

Today, the judge agreed and moved the case out of Collin County; he also ordered a delay in the trial, I presume to give the principals a chance to find a suitable venue to try the attorney general.

This is a bit of a surprise to me.

It’s because a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on securities charges stemming from an allegation that he misled investors involved in a company with which Paxton was involved before he was elected attorney general in 2014.

The way I figured at the time, if a grand jury comprising peers of the attorney general would indict him, then surely a trial judge could find a suitable pool of trial jurors to hear the case and then decide on his guilt or innocence.

Paxton, you see, represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before running for AG three years ago.

Paxton has suffered a stinging defeat to be sure. He now is going to stand before jurors who are ostensibly neutral in this case, who don’t know the AG personally or who’ve never had the chance to vote for him while he served in the Legislature.

Then again, he is a statewide elected official. Which makes me wonder: Where can one find a jury pool that is totally neutral?

Let the kids pray, Mr. Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has decided to make an issue where none exists.

The non-issue involves some Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, a Dallas suburb. They’ve been attending prayers in a classroom for years. They have been practicing their faith — of their own volition. The school has allowed the students to use the classroom and there’s been no issue with the other students.

Enter the attorney general, who has sent a letter to school administrators expressing his alleged concern about the Muslim prayers being recited in a public high school.

But then there’s this item, as reported in the Washington Post:

“Paxton attracted national attention last December when he waded into a dispute in Killeen, Tex., between a middle school principal and a nurse’s aide who put up a six-foot poster in the school with a quote from the classic animation special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that read: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.’

“After the principal told the aide to take the poster down, Paxton wrote to the Killeen school district: ‘These concerns are not surprising in an age of frivolous litigation by anti-Christian interest groups … Rescind this unlawful policy.’

“When the school district refused, Paxton helped the nurse’s aide sue, and won.”

So, there you have it. It’s OK to sanction Christian activities in a public school, but when a group of Muslim students seeks some quiet time to pray, why, the AG expresses concern?

I understand what the Constitution says about government establishing laws that favor certain religions. The Constitution does not prohibit students from praying on their own. That is what is occurring in Frisco.

As the Post reports: “’This ‘news release’ appears to be a publicity stunt by the OAG to politicize a nonissue,’ schools superintendent Jeremy Lyon wrote in reply to the state. ‘Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.’”

It’s fair to ask: Would the attorney general have expressed concern had the students been Christian?

Frisco school officials have told the Post that the state never asked about the nature of the prayers when the school began allowing the students to use the room. Why is Paxton raising the issue now?

The anti-Muslim climate in this country is being fanned by policies enacted at the very top of the government chain of command. The president of the United States seeks to ban refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries and has run headlong into objections from federal judges who contend his executive order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As for what is occurring at Liberty High in Frisco, let the students pray, Mr. Attorney General.

Texas AG deserves to stand trial at home

My jaw dropped. My mouth is gaping. I cannot believe what I have just read.

Prosecutors seeking to convict Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is set to stand trial for an alleged securities fraud matter, have asked for a change of venue because they say they cannot get a fair trial in Collin County, a suburban region just north of Dallas.

Why the jaw-drop?

Well, Paxton represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before he was elected AG in 2014. That’s what made his indictment by a Collin County grand jury all the more remarkable, the way I saw it. This wasn’t a group of liberal activists seeking revenge against a conservative statewide politician. The grand jury was a panel of Paxton’s peers.

Prosecutors need not seek a change of venue, given that a Collin County grand jury brought the charges against Paxton in the first place.

The grand jury indicted Paxton on allegations that he misled investors in a company; the alleged crime occurred before he became attorney general.

I don’t know about you, but I find this allegation of bias against them to be soaked in irony.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “Ken Paxton, like all Texans, has the right to be tried in the County he was charged in,” Paxton lawyer Dan Cogdell said in a statement. “The Special Prosecutors have filed a 60-page pleading trying to thwart that right. That these prosecutors are somehow painting themselves as ‘victims’ of some nonexistent conspiracy is extremely telling.”

I believe the trial court will be able to seat a jury that can determine this case fairly and without bias. Just look at what the grand jury did to bring this case to trial.

The case is set to go to trial on May 1. Let it take place in Collin County.

On to securities fraud trial for Texas AG

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office under a serious cloud.

Allegations had been leveled at him for securities fraud. Then came a criminal indictment from a Collin County grand jury, comprising individuals Paxton used to represent in the Legislature. Indeed, it’s a good bet many of the grand jurors had voted for him when he ran for AG in 2014.

They indicted him for failing to report that he had benefited from investment advice he had given to clients. This couldn’t be construed seriously as a political witch hunt, given that the indictment came from Paxton’s home county.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Today, though, the state’s highest criminal appellate court — the Court of Criminal Appeals — decided against hearing Paxton’s appeal. The ruling, thus, clears the way for Paxton’s case to head to trial.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/10/12/court-criminal-appeals-declines-hear-paxton-case/

A federal judge earlier had tossed a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against Paxton.

So, let’s decide this matter once and for all.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Last summer, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on criminal charges of securities fraud and failure to register with the state securities board. He is accused of misleading investors in a company from before he took office as Texas’ top lawyer.”

This isn’t a penny ante case. It involves an individual, Paxton, whose reputation is supposed to be above reproach. It’s the position he holds. As the state’s top lawyer, he shouldn’t have this cloud hovering over him. Neither should the state AG’s office, which is really more important to the rest of us than a single politician’s reputation.

The Tribune reports that a trial could start as early as next spring. If Paxton is convicted, he faces a possible prison term of 99 years.

My own hope is that a court convene a trial as soon as possible so we can put this issue aside — one way or another.

Texas AG, truckers go after human traffickers

 

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The Texas attorney general isn’t generally considered a top-drawer crime fighter.

The AG’s office generally works on civil matters.

Heaven knows I’ve been critical of the current attorney general, Ken Paxton, over his allegedly lax ethical standard. Today, though, I want to salute the work he is continuing with truckers in combatting human traffickers.

Paxton is employing trucking organizations to put extra sets of eyes on those who might be suspected of transporting sex slaves across the state.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/09/01/state-looks-truckers-combat-human-trafficking/

Paxton calls human trafficking “modern-day slavery.” It’s a hideous crime against humanity. The Texas attorney general is to be commended for using his office along with civilians who are on the road constantly to be on the lookout for those who prey on defenseless human beings.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “(Paxton) said the partnership helps educate truck drivers on the signs of human trafficking and how to report it. Paxton added that such a focused effort will help ensure that victims will be identified and rescued, and that traffickers will be punished.”

Truckers Against Trafficking is one of the groups that is working with the state in searching for human traffickers. Founded in 2011, this organization helps educate truck drivers in identifying human traffickers and ensuring they report what they see to the proper authorities.

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood calls this initiative a form of “community policing.” As the Tribune reports: “This is a wonderful way to show how community policing works – bringing in partners from the community, people who are in the trenches, on the front lines to be our eyes and ears for law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.”

We live in a huge state with many thousands of miles of highways. The state doesn’t have an unlimited set of eyes to search for these criminals. Enlisting the truckers doesn’t provide a limitless surveillance capability. However, it gives the state a crucial ally in this important crusade.

Texas AG seeks to do the seemingly impossible

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton deserves credit for perseverance.

He’s been indicted by a grand jury on charges of securities fraud. Paxton says he’s innocent and has entered a plea to that effect. He’s now taking his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal appellate court.

He wants the CCA to do for him what it did for former Gov. Rick Perry, when it tossed out an accusation that Perry had coerced a public official by demanding her resignation after she had pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge. Perry had been indicted by a Travis County grand jury and complained that the Democratic-leaning county had stacked the grand jury with Democrats pre-disposed to indict a Republican governor.

Perry made the case to the all-Republican Court of Criminal Appeals.

Paxton’s indictment is quite a bit different.

A Collin County grand jury indicted him on charges that he failed to improperly report personal profit from investment he had given; the Securities and Exchange Commission also has filed a complaint against the AG.

Now, why is this so interesting?

Paxton represented Collin County before he was elected attorney general in 2014. The county is among the more Republican-leaning counties in Texas. I don’t know this, but I’d be willing to bet real American money that many of the grand jurors voted for him as attorney general and also for him when he ran for the Legislature, where he represented Collin County.

The grand jury indicted its home boy, not some political outsider.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/03/brief-august-3-2016/

Which makes me wonder whether the attorney general is going to get a favorable ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Tie goes to the GOP with SCOTUS decision

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s non-decision on President Obama’s executive order regarding illegal immigrants just demonstrates the need to get that ninth seat on the court filled.

OK, the president lost this one. The court came down 4 to 4 to uphold a lower court ruling that had set aside the president’s executive order that granted temporary amnesty to around 5 million undocumented immigrants.

His order would have spared millions of families from the fear of deportation, particularly those families with children who were born in the United States and, thus, were American citizens.

Now, their future is a quite a bit more uncertain.

Everyone knows that the court would have ruled 5-4 had Justice Antonin Scalia had been present to decide. He wasn’t. He’s now deceased. The president has nominated a moderate jurist to replace him. Senate Republicans won’t give Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote because they want the next president to make the selection.

So, the tie vote means the Republicans win this round.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “I think the Constitution was upheld and this idea that there is a separation of powers — that no one person gets to make up law — was upheld,” Paxton said. “That’s a great thing for America.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/supreme-court-deadlocks-thwarting-obamas-immigration-actions-224720#ixzz4CS8xrwhm

But is it? Is it a great thing for those families that have come here to carve out a new life and for their children who were born here and who have considered themselves Americans for their entire life?

We can’t change the court’s non-decision now that it has acted — although I remain a bit dubious about how a tie vote actually settles anything. It reminds me a little bit of how court cases are decided on “technicalities.”

Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton both say the permanent answer must rest with Congress. Clinton vowed to seek congressional action if she’s elected president this fall.

Do I — as a layman — like how the court “decided” this case? Not in the least.

But you play the hand you’re dealt.

It does show quite brightly, though, why it’s important to fill that ninth seat on the Supreme Court — and why Merrick Garland deserves a hearing and a vote of the Senate.