Tag Archives: Texas attorney general

Texas AG waits and waits and waits … to stand trial

This just isn’t normal.

The state’s top law enforcement official continues to function with a dark cloud hanging directly over him, but there’s no apparent resolution in sight on how that cloud will disappear.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted for securities fraud. He was elected in 2014 with that indictment hanging over him. Then he won re-election — albeit narrowly — in 2018 with the same cloud.

There have been venue change rulings and then delay upon delay.

Paxton got indicted by a grand jury in Collin County — which Paxton used to represent in the Texas Legislature — on felony counts of security fraud. Grand jurors accused him of failing to register with the state while receiving payments in return for soliciting clients for a North Texas investment firm.

Paxton also has received complaints from the Texas Securities Board, which reprimanded him for soliciting clients without being properly registered.

This is ridiculous.

The Texas Tribune has published a fascinating timeline of Paxton’s legal difficulties. Read it here.

I am left to doubt damn near everything that this guy says in his capacity as Texas AG. Sure, he’s entitled to an innocence presumption. However, a grand jury indictment doesn’t just happen because grand jurors are intent, to borrow a phrase, on “indicting a ham sandwich.”

Now the principals are caught up in a side issue involving prosecutors’ pay. More delays, foot-dragging and whatever.

Justice isn’t being delivered on this matter. The state’s attorney general needs to stand trial and there needs to be a resolution of the serious charges that have been brought against him.

Texas AG becomes environmental watchdog

I’ll be candid. I never have considered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to be much of an environmental watchdog, let alone an activist. 

So, what does the top state Republican legal eagle do? He files a lawsuit against a Houston company that owns a storage terminal that erupted in flames, pouring tons of chemicals into the air.

Intercontinental Terminals has been slapped with a lawsuit over the fires that detonated at its suburban Deer Park storage units. It has closed the Houston Ship Channel, one of the world’s busiest international shipping waterways. The fires have contaminated the air, pouring clouds filled with cancer-causing benzine.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It alleges that Intercontinental Terminals has filed the Texas Clean Air Act.

The company faces the possibility of stiff fines if the AG wins his lawsuit.

Company faces major fines

Environmental groups are cheering the attorney general on. I want to join them, even though it does surprise me.

Paxton was a GOP legislator from Collin County before he got elected as AG in 2014. He was re-elected to a second term in 2018. He’s had a bit of legal trouble, facing a probable trial on securities fraud later this year. But that’s another story.

I find his lawsuit to be a fairly refreshing and pleasant surprise.

The Deer Park fires have been buggers to extinguish. They have blackened the sky along the Gulf Coast. They have put thousands of Texans’ health at risk.

I stand with AG Ken Paxton in seeking justice.

No-brainer: Don’t vote on husband’s salary

Angela Paxton is a solid favorite to be elected to the Texas Senate this fall, representing the suburban region north of Dallas.

She won the Republican Party primary earlier this month. Given the state’s heavy GOP leanings, that puts her on the inside lane en route to the Senate.

Her husband happens to be Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who’s likely to be re-elected in the fall general election.

Ahh, but here’s a potential quandary facing a Sen. Paxton: Does she vote on budget matters that set her husband’s salary as the state’s top legal official? There appears to be some gray area here, with ethics experts debating it.

To me it’s a no-brainer. No matter what the Texas Constitution allows, Paxton shouldn’t vote on her husband’s salary. Let her 30 Senate colleagues determine how much the attorney general should earn.

For the life of me I don’t understand why this is even under discussion. According to the Texas Tribune: “She’s going to have to think about what she does before she does it. If they’re doing [increases] for everyone, I don’t think that’s a conflict because everybody’s getting the same raise,” Hugh Brady, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said. “If it’s something special for the attorney general, I think she should step back and pause.”

I disagree with the professor. I don’t think a lawmaker casting a vote that materially affects his or her income passes the smell test, no matter if it’s a vote for all officials or if the vote affects an individual.

Paxton wouldn’t be the first lawmaker to face this issue. GOP State Rep. Tom Craddick’s daughter, Christi, serves on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission. Rep. Craddick has voted through three legislative sessions in favor of state budgets that include salaries for the RRC. I believe that, too, constitutes a conflict of interest, although it would not be as blatant if Angela Paxton were to vote to approve her husband’s salary, given that she and the AG share the same home.

I’ll fall back on a truism that should govern elected officials’ conduct: Just because it’s legal doesn’t always make it right.

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

cornyn

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

paxton

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.