Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton got a big lift in his fight against securities fraud allegations Wednesday, as Texas' highest criminal court ruled that special prosecutors' compensation in the case exceeded legal limits.
Last year, a Collin County court agreed to pay almost $200,000 in legal fees to the three prosecutors assigned to Paxton's case. The Collin County Commissioners Court objected to the payments and the Dallas-based Texas 5th Court of Appeals agreed, throwing out the payment agreement.
In September 2017, Paxton's prosecutors appealed the 5th Court's ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, arguing that the appeals court's decision was an abuse of discretion that would "have a chilling effect on their ability to appoint competent advocates willing to take on the most complex criminal cases.”
Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the 5th Court.
"Here, the trial court exceeded its authority by issuing an order for payment of fees that is not in accordance with an approved fee schedule containing reasonable fixed rates or minimum and maximum rates," the CCA's opinion said.
The Collin County courts' normal fee schedule pays court-appointed attorneys a flat fee of $1,000 for pretrial preparation and an additional $500 for each half-day spent at trial.
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Paxton spokesman Jordan Berry celebrated the ruling.
“While this was a lawsuit brought by Collin County, Attorney General Paxton is extremely grateful for the court’s decision,” Berry said in a statement.
Brian Wice, one of three prosecutors assigned to the case, said in a statement that his team has not made a decision about continuing to prosecute the case.
"While we are disappointed with the majority's ruling and are exploring all legal options available to us, it does not alter the fact that Ken Paxton remains charged with three serious felony offenses," he said.