IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ethics case creates yet another problem for Texas’ Ken Paxton

Among Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's many problems is the fallout from his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.


In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat, far too many outrageous lawsuits were filed by Republicans displeased with the results, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was responsible for one of the most outlandish cases.

In case anyone needs a refresher, the Texas Republican — who also chaired the Lawyers for Trump group — filed suit targeting the election results out of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, building his weak case around their pandemic-era election procedures. Paxton, with the backing of many GOP lawmakers in Congress, went so far as to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block those states from voting in the Electoral College.

Reuters’ Brad Heath explained at the time, Paxton was “literally asking the Supreme Court to throw out the results of other states’ presidential elections, set aside the millions of votes cast in states that are not Texas, and have other state legislatures make Trump president.”

As failed legal gambits go, this was quite bonkers. Of course, in our system of justice, lawyers who push bonkers legal gambits run the risk of facing sanctions for professional misconduct. With this in mind, as regular readers may recall, the Texas bar association last spring moved forward with an investigation into the state attorney general and his anti-election efforts.

Paxton tried to dismiss the case. As Reuters reported this week, that didn’t go well.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton must face an ethics lawsuit by state attorney regulators over a case he brought challenging results of the 2020 election, according to a court ruling posted on Monday. Judge Casey Blair on Friday denied Paxton’s bid to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds.

The report added that Paxton, by way of a defense, argued that his work as Texas’ top lawyer “was beyond the reach of Texas attorney ethics regulators.” That apparently proved unpersuasive.

The case still has a long way to go, but if the state attorney general loses, he could be disbarred.

Under normal circumstances, this would be evidence of a lawyer with a real headache on his hands. But there’s nothing normal about Paxton’s current predicaments, and this ethics case is just part of a larger avalanche of problems.

As we discussed last fall, the Texas Republican is currently under indictment, and members of his own team have made multiple criminal allegations against Paxton.

Making matters worse, the Associated Press published a brutal investigative report in September, highlighting the extraordinary dysfunction in the Texan’s office.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s staff this month quietly dropped a series of human trafficking and child sexual assault cases after losing track of one of the victims, a stumble in open court emblematic of broader dysfunction inside one of America’s most prominent law offices. ... [Paxton’s state attorney general office] has come unmoored by disarray behind the scenes, with seasoned lawyers quitting over practices they say aim to slant legal work, reward loyalists and drum out dissent.

The same AP report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, found Paxton and his deputies have also sought to “turn cases to political advantage or push a broader political agenda.”

If congressional Republicans are looking for evidence of officials “weaponizing” law enforcement, they shouldn’t be looking at Merrick Garland or the FBI; they should be looking at Austin.