Texas Attorney General Says Bar Investigation Unconstitutional | New policies
By JAKE BLEIBERG, Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) – Lawyers for the Texas attorney general have called on the state bar association to drop its investigation into whether the Republican’s unsuccessful efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election amounted to professional misconduct, arguing that the investigation is an unconstitutional overrun.
In late May, the State Bar of Texas began reviewing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s petition to the United States Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory based on false allegations of fraud. The investigation was sparked by a complaint from a Democratic Party activist that the Republican official’s actions were frivolous and unethical.
In a wide-ranging official response Thursday, Paxton’s office argued that the activist lacked standing to bring a complaint against the Attorney General and that the bar’s investigation amounted to an unconstitutional intervention by the judiciary in the work of the executive.
“The regulation of the professional conduct of lawyers does not extend to the regulation of the decisions of the Attorney General, his office or any other body headed by a licensed lawyer or any public official who may be a licensed lawyer,” wrote a lawyer from the Paxton office in the 22-page response.
Kevin Moran, the 72-year-old chairman of the Galveston Island Democrats, said he was pursuing his complaint. He provided Paxton’s response to The Associated Press and said that “from my reading he has declared himself above the law, essentially.”
A spokeswoman for the bar, which operates under the authority of the Texas Supreme Court, declined to comment. Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The investigation is only an investigation into Paxton’s legal and political responsibilities. He faces a years-old criminal case, a more recent FBI investigation and challenges from two main Republican opponents who have sought to dispel various election controversies.
Paxton has pleaded not guilty in a state securities fraud case, which has been at a standstill since 2015. He largely denied wrongdoing in the separate criminal investigation launched after his senior aides reported it to the FBI last year for alleged corruption and abuse of power.
Paxton’s legal issues aren’t repelling GOP donors, but some are starting to throw money at his challengers. George P. Bush topped the two-term attorney general after entering the race in June, raising $ 2.3 million while Paxton has raised $ 1.8 million in the past six months, according to the new campaign finance figures released on Friday.
Former Texas Supreme Court justice Republican Eva Guzman has also raised more than $ 1 million for what will likely be the state’s most competitive GOP primary in 2022.
In December, Paxton’s office asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene in Donald Trump’s electoral defeat, although it did so without Texas’s senior appeals lawyer, who typically litigated the state affairs before the High Court. The Supreme Court justices dismissed the petition.
A succession of other state judges and election officials have refuted claims of widespread electoral fraud, and Trump’s own Justice Department found no evidence of fraud that could have altered the election outcome.
The case drew more than 80 complaints against Paxton and his senior deputy, according to the attorney general’s response. He said the bar initially dismissed all complaints, but the court that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned those rulings in four cases.
Besides that of Moran, the response says, the other complaints the bar is investigating come from a lawyer, a man who described himself as a “citizen of Texas” disgusted by the actions of Paxton and David Chew, the former chief justice of a state appeals court.
Paxton’s attorneys broadly dismissed Chew’s claims as “vague, non-specific and conclusive.” The retired judge could not immediately be reached for comment.
Associated Press reporter Paul J. Webber in Austin contributed to this report.
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