On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed two motions in the Texas Senate to dismiss the impeachment articles brought against him before the trial in September.
Paxton’s lawyers argue that a majority of the alleged corrupt acts had occurred before his most recent election and thus are off limits, in one of two new motions. They based their arguments on the “prior-term doctrine” to argue that state law bars the removal of an official if the conduct in question had occurred before his most recent election.
“With only a single exception, the Articles allege nothing that Texas voters have not heard from the Attorney General’s political opponents for years,” they wrote, accusing the GOP-controlled House of wanting to oust Paxton because they were “unable to defeat” him “at the polls.”
In the second motion, Paxton’s team argues that any evidence before this year should be excluded.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who presides over the trial as the president of the state Senate, will decide if he will grant either of the motions.
The state Senators will serve as jurors in the trial and vote on whether to remove Paxton from office based on the evidence presented against him during the trial. Per the rules set for the impeachment trial, Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), the attorney general’s wife, will not be able to vote on his removal.
According to Texas law, an official cannot be removed from office, “for an act the officer may have committed before the officer’s election to office.”
However, the law does not explicitly say if it refers to the official’s most recent election or their first election to that particular office.
Paxton’s lawyers cited legal precedent that backs their interpretation of the law according to them.
“Consistent with Texas law, Texas Supreme Court decisions, and this Court’s precedents, the prior-term doctrine squarely applies to this proceeding,” they wrote. “Indeed, the factual underpinnings for the Articles have been reported on for years and even served as the focal point of his opponents’ media campaigns during his most recent primary and general elections.
“Texas voters elected Attorney General Paxton despite those public allegations — so they have the last word.”
Only one article of impeachment which deals with Paxton’s request that lawmakers fund a $3.3 million whistleblower settlement with employers, who were the first ones to raise corruption complaints, relating to conduct that took place this year, they attacked.
The lawyers wrote that the articles also must be dismissed, “for separate reasons to be addressed elsewhere.”
In their motion to exclude evidence, Paxton’s team argued that the House managers presenting the case against Paxton had turned over 50 boxes of documents they believe to lack the basis of their allegations, referring to prior-term doctrine again.
“The evidence provided by the House Managers is flimsy at best and insulting at worst,” the team wrote. “But ultimately the House’s weak evidence is of no matter. As set forth in General Paxton’s corresponding Motion to Dismiss filed along with this Motion, an impeachment proceeding simply cannot be based on evidence of alleged conduct that was publicly known and that occurred before the official’s election.”
Due to the gag order placed by Patrick on everyone involved in the impeachment process, the House managers did not respond to a request for comment, according to Dallas Morning News.
Patrick has not yet made any decisions on several additional motions Paxton’s team has filed.
Paxton is accused of bribery, abuse of office and obstruction of justice. He denies any misconduct. The three-term incumbent was impeached by the Texas House on May 27, by a vote of 121-23 and is currently suspended without pay.
The trial is due to start on Sept. 5, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.