Tag Archives: Texas attorney general

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.

Killing a cop need not become a federal issue

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John Cornyn is angry about the deaths of those five Dallas police officers.

So am I. So are millions of other Americans.

Is that reason enough to create a new federal law, as Sen. Cornyn, is proposing? No. The states have it covered.

Cornyn, the Republican senior U.S. senator from Texas, wants to make killing police officers a federal crime. He’s gotten some co-sponsors for his bill, including his fellow Texan, Republican Ted Cruz.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/07/13/Cornyn-Bill-Makes-Killing-Police-Federal-Crime/

My hunch is that Cornyn’s bill is meant to toughen penalties in states that do not now impose the death penalty for any capital crime.

I understand Cornyn’s interest in this issue. He’s a former Bexar County trial judge and a former Texas attorney general.

Texas, though, already makes killing cops an automatic death penalty prosecution, as do most states in the country.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Law enforcement officers selflessly put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and in return they deserve our unparalleled support for the irreplaceable role they serve,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The Back the Blue Act sends a clear message that our criminal justice system simply will not tolerate those who viciously and deliberately target our law enforcement. As our country continues to grieve following last week’s tragedy in Dallas, we must come together in support of those who risk everything to keep us safe.”

My goodness, we can support our officers in many tangible ways. Texas already has enacted strict punishment for those convicted of killing officers.

Cities can support their police departments by ensuring they have adequate resources, staffing, up-to-date equipment and training. Legislatures can buttress local governments with sufficient grant funds that they can funnel to communities to assist in providing the best law enforcement that money can buy.

Millions of Americans are justifiably outraged over the attack that occurred in Dallas. Do we need another federal law that proves how mad we are? No.

Texas AG slams door on transparency

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Ken Paxton’s tenure as Texas attorney general has gotten off to a rocky start.

First, a Collin County grand jury indicted the Republican politician on charges of securities fraud, accusing him of failing to report income he derived from giving investment advice to a friend. The Securities and Exchange Commission followed suit with a complaint of its own.

Bad start, man.

Then the attorney general accepts the resignations of two top aides and agrees to keep paying them. What’s worse in this case, according to the Dallas Morning News, is that the AG isn’t explaining why he’s continuing to pay the ex-staffers.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20160509-editorial-ken-paxton-should-answer-our-reporters-questions.ece

The Morning News accuses Paxton of bullying the newspaper’s reporters who keep asking questions about the payments. He’s not willing to explain why he’s using these particular public funds in this manner.

The newspaper has blistered Paxton in an editorial. It demands, correctly in my view, that he hold his office — and himself — accountable for the actions he has taken regarding the resignations of these individuals.

The Morning News asks a pertinent question, noting that state law allows public agencies to grant paid leave when it finds “good cause” to do so. Paxton decided to categorize their departure as paid leave, thus justifying the continued payments to folks who no longer work for the state. The paper asks: What’s the good cause? The attorney general isn’t saying.

The paper offers this bit of advice to the public as it ponders the AG’s behavior: “Voters should take note.”

 

Texas voters need to share in Paxton saga

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Erica Greider, writing a blog for Texas Monthly, takes note of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s growing legal problems.

He shouldn’t stand alone in the alleged culpability, she writes.

Part of the responsibility — perhaps most of it — belongs to the Texans who elected him in 2014 as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/indictments-texass-attorney-general/

A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton this past year on several counts of securities fraud. Now, though, the Securities and Exchange Commission — the federal agency that oversees investment transactions — has leveled complaints against the attorney general.

Greider notes correctly that Paxton deserves the presumption of innocence, but she adds: “Even so, for an attorney general to rack up so many indictments with such ease and rapidity is in poor taste and raises troubling questions about his efficacy as manager.”

But none of this was a surprise sprung on Texans after he took office. It had been reported well before the November 2014 election that Paxton was in trouble for allegedly receiving income for investment advice he was giving to friends without reporting it properly to state election officials.

With that, Texans knew they were possibly electing a top legal eagle who himself might be facing some serious legal difficulty.

They elected him. He took office and then — wouldn’t you know it? — the grand jury indicted him and then the SEC weighed in with complaints of its own.

It just seems — to me, at least — that voters ought to be a good bit more discerning when selecting people to high public office.

It’s especially true — again, in my view only — that such discernment ought to be tuned even more finely when those selections involve people we entrust to enforce the state’s laws.

We can do a whole letter better than electing folks who are lugging around this kind of baggage.


 

Texas AG now faces SEC accusation

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under indictment for securities fraud.

Now, though, the Securities and Exchange Commission has weighed in on the attorney general, charging him with a similar misdeed.

Let’s see. A Collin County grand jury — in Paxton’s home county — has issued a criminal indictment. The SEC now has accused the AG of failure to disclose he was being paid a commission for investment advice he was giving.

Is there a pattern here? Does the state of Texas really deserve to be represented by a top legal eagle who’s now under a dual-edged complaint?

As one who believes in the presumption of innocence, I have been reluctant to call for Paxton to step down from this high office.

Until now.

Paxton has proclaimed his innocence. Of course he would, yes?

I recall during the 2014 campaign for attorney general, though, that Paxton — who served in the Texas Legislature — actually admitted to doing what the grand jury accused him of doing when it indicted him. The grand jury indicted him for failing to disclose that he had been paid for the investment advice he gave.

Still, Texas voters elected him.

According to the Texas Tribune: “People recruiting investors have a legal obligation to disclose any compensation they are receiving to promote a stock, and we allege that Paxton and White concealed the compensation they were receiving for touting Servergy’s product,” Shamoil T. Shipchandler, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth regional office, said in a news release on the complaint.

SEC joins in

This doesn’t look to me like a political witch hunt. The SEC is a regulatory agency run by professionals who are charged with ensuring that investment policies are followed to the letter.

The grand jury? It’s in the very county Paxton — a Republican — represented in the Legislature. Many of the grand jurors likely voted for the guy.

This doesn’t bode well for the attorney general.

For that matter, it doesn’t bode well for the state’s pursuit of top-notch and credible legal advice from its top lawyer.

I wouldn’t shed a tear if Ken Paxton decided to quit so he could devote his full attention to defending himself against these serious charges.

 

Cruz and Cornyn: an uneasy Senate team?

cornyn and cruz

Every state is represented in the U.S. Senate by two individuals who, under an unwritten rule of good government, would seek to work in close political partnership.

The Texas Tribune has published an interesting analysis of the relationship of Texas’s two Republican senators, one of whom is running for president of the United States.

Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, according to the Tribune, aren’t exactly close. They aren’t joined at the hip. You don’t see them singing each other’s praises.

Is it a metaphor for what we’ve heard about Cruz?

It’s been stated repeatedly during this Republican primary campaign that Cruz hasn’t made many “friends” in the Senate. He doesn’t “play well with others,” the saying goes. He called the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a “liar” in a Senate floor speech and then just this past week said he had no intention to take back what he said.

It might be a big deal — in a normal election cycle. This one isn’t normal. As the Tribune reports: “In any other circumstance, it would be curious that a viable presidential candidate did not have the support of his fellow state Republican. But each man in this case represents the visceral divide raging in the party: Cornyn is the consummate establishment team player, while Cruz is the TEA Party insurgent.”

Cruz has been a senator for slightly more than three years. Cornyn was elected in 2002. What’s more, the Senate is Cruz’s first elected office; Cornyn, on the other hand, served as Texas attorney general and, before that, as a member of the Texas Supreme Court.

Cornyn knows how to play the political game in Texas. He’s good at it. Is he exactly my kind of senator? Hardly, but I do respect the man’s political skill.

Cruz brings another element to this game. I would consider it his amazing degree of hubris and utter fearlessness.

It’s long been said that the U.S. Senate is a 100-member club that requires a bit of time for members to feel comfortable. It took young Ted Cruz no time at all to grab a microphone on the Senate floor and begin blasting away at his rivals.

It’s only a hunch on my part but it might be that the Texas rookie’s rush to the center of the stage could have been a bit off-putting to the more senior legislator.

It used to be said that the “most dangerous place in Washington” was the space between Sen. Phil Gramm and a microphone. Gramm left the Senate some years ago. Ted Cruz has taken up that new — apparently with great gusto.

Is he a team player? Are Texas’s two senators — Cornyn and Cruz — on the same page all the time? Consider this from the Tribune:

“There are no whispered tales in Senate circles about heated arguments between the two men or icy glares on the Senate floor. Instead, the most frequently used word observers use to describe the relationship is ‘disconnected.’”

 

 

Paxton gets no ‘love’ from hometown court

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If the embattled Texas attorney general was expecting to get some favorite-son treatment in his home county …

He’s mistaken.

Ken Paxton faces a possible trial on charges that he solicited investment business without notifying the proper state authorities that he was being compensated. A Collin County grand jury indicted him on the felony charges, to which the McKinney Republican has pleaded not guilty.

Paxton represented the suburban community north of Dallas in the Texas Legislature before being elected in 2014 as the state’s top lawyer.

Now a judge — also in Collin County — has tossed aside a motion to cap the money being to the special prosecution team that’s been appointed to represent the state.

Paxton’s lawyer lacked jurisdiction to file the motion, according to Judge Mark Greenberg.

I’m not going to pre-judge this case. The proceedings to date, though, seem to suggest that AG Paxton might be in for rough ride if this case goes to trial in Collin County.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this case so far has been that Paxton has been indicted by a hometown grand jury and has been delivered setbacks by a court in his hometown as well.

Remember when former Republican Gov. Rick Perry blamed the grand jury in Democrat-friendly Travis County of playing politics when it indicted him for abuse of power?

Paxton can’t make the same argument.

This case could get interesting.