Exploring Ken Paxton’s Idiosyncratic View of Law

Ernesto Herrera is a bailiff in the state of Texas. On Monday morning, he went to the home of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) to serve him with two subpoenas ordering Paxton to appear in court the next day to give evidence in an action in legal action brought by abortion rights groups in the state.

According to a statement, Herrera arrived at Paxton’s home around 8:30 a.m. He knocked and spoke with Paxton’s wife, who said the attorney general was on the phone. Herrera then waited outside. Almost an hour later, an SUV arrived at the house. When Paxton emerged to enter, Herrera approached him. Paxton quickly (Herrera says he ran) ran back into the house. Ten minutes later, Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton (right), opens the doors of the truck and Paxton rushes (again: “runs”) to enter. Herrera says he identified himself and served the papers by leaving them near the vehicle.

After the Texas Tribune reported on the events on Monday night, Paxton went wild on Twitter. The media, he said, “attacked me for having the audacity to avoid having a stranger lingering outside my home and caring about the safety and well-being of my family.”

Paxton’s tweet, unlike Herrera’s statement, was not offered under oath. Additionally, there is no indication that Paxton alerted law enforcement after Herrera’s arrival, suggesting that his safety concerns may not have been so strong at this time. To all appearances, that was what it looked like: Texas’ chief legal officer circumventing a legally submitted subpoena.

Not exactly surprising, however, given Paxton’s history of using the law for political gain.

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We can start in 2014, the year Paxton was first elected as Attorney General. Even before he secured the Republican nomination, questions arose as to whether he had broken the law in the work he had done for a financial services company. He was charged with three felony counts the following year – after being appointed attorney general – and pleaded not guilty.

These charges are pending. Seven years later, there has been no trial. He was narrowly re-elected in 2018.

In 2020, Paxton was accused of bribery and abuse of power by seven of his staff. All seven were fired, furloughed or resigned soon after. The FBI would investigate the allegations, although he has been cleared of any wrongdoing… by his own office.

Meanwhile, Paxton, who is up for re-election this year, has often used his position to push partisan positions and arguments. He filed a motion to force the White House to continue building a wall on the border with Mexico. Her office announced that some medical care for transgender youth amounted to “child abuse.” He touted a patently specious claim about rampant illegal voter registrations that the Texas secretary of state quickly had to counter.

But it matched his forceful effort to use the power of his position on behalf of Donald Trump. Paxton made Texas the lead plaintiff in a post-election lawsuit filed in 2020 seeking to overturn presidential contest results in a number of swing states. The lawsuit was dubious in broad outline and ridiculous in its specific allegations of voter fraud. Although Trump centers it as essential and important, the lawsuit, which was reportedly drafted by attorneys close to Trump’s White House, was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

This plea on behalf of Trump likely allowed Paxton to speak at Trump’s rally outside the White House on January 6, 2021.

” We are here. We won’t stop fighting, he told the crowd – some of whom later fought on Capitol Hill. After the violence, however, Paxton claimed on social media that the rioters were “not Trump supporters.” The Texas State Bar then sued Paxton for violating ethical standards over his efforts to reverse the election results. In response, Paxton barred office attorneys from participating in state bar events.

However, the attorney general’s embrace of voter fraud conspiracy theories did not end with his failed efforts to boost Trump. Earlier this year he hosted a screening of Dinesh D’Souza’s “2000 Mules,” a film he described as “very compelling.” Documents provided to The Washington Post by the Lone Star Project (obtained under the Texas Public Information Act) show that Paxton’s office encouraged officials to attend the screening.

The fact that the film had already been largely debunked at the time of the invitation does not appear to have influenced the suggestion that the Election Integrity Team attend. “Election #fraud is real and we must come together to stop it! » Paxton tweeted after the event – ​​a reminder that it was about showing allegiance to the right-wing stance on election security much more than bolstering “election integrity.”

Earlier this year, Paxton again won the Republican Party’s nomination for state attorney general – but only after being the only incumbent forced into a runoff. Given state politics and the midterm elections, he is likely to be re-elected for the second time.

Perhaps at the end of a third term, his 2015 indictment will be resolved. But who knows what other legal quagmires might arise in the meantime.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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