AUSTIN, Texas – The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether Attorney General Ken Paxton committed professional misconduct in challenging President Biden’s victory in court, which a complaint called a “frivolous lawsuit” that has wasted taxpayer money.
The investigation, which could result in disciplinary action ranging from a reprimand to deregistration, is the latest hurdle for Mr Paxton, who has been at the center of bribery and corruption charges and has been charged in 2015 on allegations of securities fraud in a case that has not been resolved.
Mr Paxton, a Republican, is also challenged by a member of the Bush family in next year’s Attorney General primary, the state’s top law enforcement office and a post that has served as political springboard. He was predeceased by Governor Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn.
After it became clear that Mr Biden had won the election, Mr Paxton filed a lawsuit in early December which was ridiculed by many legal experts and ultimately dismissed by the United States Supreme Court. He had asked the court to extend a deadline for certifying presidential voters, arguing that election irregularities in four other states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – warranted further investigation.
That month, Kevin Moran, a retired Houston Chronicle reporter and chairman of the Galveston Island Democrats, filed a grievance with the State Bar of Texas. In his case, Mr. Moran argued that Mr. Paxton knew there was no legal basis for the lawsuit and that any unelected lawyer would face disciplinary action if he filed a frivolous lawsuit.
“Knowing that the national elections were NOT rigged or stolen, he acted in a way to fuel these baseless nationwide conspiracy theories,” Moran wrote.
The Texas State Bar said it was prohibited by law to discuss any outstanding issues, and the attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Paxton’s campaign spokesman Ian Prior denounced the complaint as a “low-level blow” and a “frivolous allegation”, adding that “the Democrats in Texas continue to show how much they cannot not support electoral integrity ”.
The complaint was initially dismissed by the state bar’s chief disciplinary board office, but was later reactivated by its disciplinary appeal board, which is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court. The 12-member board informed Moran in late May that it had upheld his appeal after “finding that the grievance alleges a possible violation” of Texas professional misconduct rules.
Mr Moran, 71, said on Thursday he filed the complaint as a “disgruntled citizen” – not as a Democratic official – because he was outraged by the attorney general’s trial, especially after he ‘a multitude of judges have confirmed Mr. Biden’s victory. .
“With his track record, I think he should be struck off the bar,” he said of Mr Paxton.
After receiving a letter in January from the state bar dismissing his complaint, Mr Moran filed an appeal which he said he was somewhat surprised to see granted.
In cases like Mr. Paxton’s, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Board must undertake a preliminary investigation to determine whether to proceed. If he decides there is cause, the malpractice charge would be tried by a trial court or an evidence panel.
Mr Paxton, in his second term as Attorney General of Texas, faces a tough re-election campaign against George P. Bush, the state land commissioner as well as the grandson of former President George HW Bush and the son of Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. The two candidates are vying for the support of former President Donald J. Trump, who still wields influence over Republicans in Texas.
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.