Legal Battles

Case Against Texas AG Ken Paxton in Deep Water After Prosecutor Pay Decision

It's starting to look more and more like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is never going to go on trial despite being indicted on felony charges nearly four years ago. Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to reconsider a decision that resulted in the lawyers prosecuting Paxton's alleged security fraud not getting paid. The lawyers have said they are likely to drop out of the case if they aren't fairly compensated.

In November, the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal court, ruled that the compensation agreed upon between the special prosecutors — appointed because Paxton and the Collin County district attorney are friends — and the Collin County court handling the case exceeded legal limits.

In 2017, 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 Fifth Court of Appeals agreed, throwing out the payment agreement.

“We’re disappointed that the Court took six months to summarily deny our motion for rehearing without addressing any of the substantial legal issues it raised." — Brian Wice

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In September 2017, Paxton's prosecutors appealed the Fifth Court's ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 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.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the Fifth 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 court's 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.

Paxton's special prosecutors appealed the decision, asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to rehear the case. Wednesday, it refused without giving an explanation.

“We’re disappointed that the Court took six months to summarily deny our motion for rehearing without addressing any of the substantial legal issues it raised, something it routinely criticizes the courts of appeals for doing," Brian Wice, one of the prosecutors, said in a statement.

The attorney general is charged with soliciting investments without disclosing that he stood to make a commission. Paxton has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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