The Court of Criminal Appeals rules that Texas’s Attorney General Ken Paxton’s securities fraud case will remain in Houston, settling an instrumental part of the 8-year-old case. This summer Paxton also faces an impeachment trial in the Texas Senate.
The highest criminal court in Texas, in a 6-3 ruling, overturned a lower-court decision that said Paxton’s trail had been improperly moved from Collin County, where he lives, to Harris County as the trial judge lost jurisdiction over the matter.
The court ruled that the Texas Constitution and state law protected the judge’s authority over the case.
“The standards we use to judge will inevitably be applied against us. Thus, even the noblest of goals, no matter how righteous, cannot justify improper means. It leads away from the enlightened order provided under the rule of law,” Judge Bert Richardson wrote for the majority. “Today we fulfill our duty by upholding our Constitution’s rule of law and affirming the wisdom of its framers.”
All nine judges, elected to the bench, are Republican.
“We’re gratified but not surprised that the Court recognized that this defendant must stand trial before a Harris County jury and a judge who will follow the law,” prosecutor Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors pursuing the case against Paxton, said in an emailed statement.
Paxton’s defense council can petition the appeals court to reconsider its venue decision. If the court agrees, this would stall the case again. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment, according to the Texas Tribune.
In 2015, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on two counts of security fraud. A first-degree felony, with a punishment of up to 99 years in prison and a third-degree felony, on the count of failing to register with the state securities regulators, with a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The charges are linked to Paxton’s efforts in 2011 to involve investors in the McKinney-based tech company, Severgy Inc., without disclosing that they were paying him to promote their stock.
Paxton has pleaded not guilty to all charges and dismissed them as political provocation from his rivals.
In 2017, prosecutors were able to remove the case from Collin County, arguing that a fair trial in a county that Paxton had represented for 12 years (10 in the Texas House and two in the state Senate) wouldn’t be possible.
In 2020, the defense had successfully argued that the judge who ordered the case to Harris County lost jurisdiction over the case, sending the case back to Collin County.
The back-and-forth led to appeals from prosecutors that resulted in Wednesday’s ruling.
Paxton’s fraud cases, which for the most part have been stalled since he was indicted nearly eight years ago, could restart as he prepares for an impeachment trial that will determine whether he is removed from office.
The rules for the Senate impeachment trial will be set next week and it is due to start sometime before Aug. 28. Paxton was suspended from his duties as the attorney general when the Texas House voted to impeach him late last month.
“Today’s decision doesn’t matter. This case is a loser and that’s why the so-called prosecutors have continued to delay this case for almost a decade now. This case has been before the Court of Criminal Appeals for nearly two years and the timing of today’s decision was no coincidence specifically timed and designed to create maximum negative press and political damage to the Attorney General and targeted to hurt him with the Senate,” Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s impeachment defense lawyer, told the Texas Tribune.