Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces a legal setback as the state appeals court in Austin denies his attempt to avoid testifying in a lawsuit brought by four high-ranking officials fired from the attorney general’s office in 2020 after reporting him to the FBI.
The ruling, issued late on Friday by the 3rd Court of Appeals, marks a setback for Paxton, who has consistently resisted efforts to compel his testimony regarding allegations of bribery and official misconduct on behalf of indicted real estate investor Nate Paul.
The decision now paves the way for a potential legal showdown at the Texas Supreme Court, where Paxton’s last chance to avoid answering questions under oath about his controversial dealings with Paul may rest.
The three-justice panel in the Austin appeals court, all Democrats, provided no explanation for the ruling, which followed a Travis County district court judge’s order two weeks earlier, mandating Paxton and his top deputies to testify in the case.
Whistleblower attorney Tom Nesbitt remarked, “This is another failure by Ken Paxton in his quest to hide from accountability for his corrupt conduct.”
Paxton’s campaign and the attorney general’s office have not immediately responded to requests for comment.
The four whistleblowers—James “Blake” Brickman, David Maxwell, Mark Penley, and Ryan Vassar—former top officials in the attorney general’s office, were fired in 2020 after reporting Paxton to the FBI. Their testimony formed the basis of articles of impeachment approved by the Texas House last year, leading to Paxton’s impeachment trial in September, where he was acquitted.
The ongoing civil case revolves around allegations that Paxton improperly used his office to assist real estate investor Nate Paul, who faces federal charges of bank and wire fraud. The whistleblower suit contends that Paxton intervened in a civil lawsuit and covertly hired an outside lawyer to collaborate with Paul’s attorney, serving subpoenas against Paul’s adversaries in various lawsuits involving his real estate company, World Class Holdings. Despite Paxton and the whistleblowers reaching a $3.3 million settlement, the case remains unresolved as it awaits legislative approval. The Texas Supreme Court has already ruled in the case, allowing litigation to resume, and the latest ruling sets the stage for potential further legal proceedings.