State Bar finally files that professional misconduct lawsuit against Paxton

We’ve been eagerly awaiting this.

Best mugshot ever

A disciplinary committee for the State Bar of Texas on Wednesday filed a professional misconduct lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections in four battleground states won by President Joe Biden.

The filing in Collin County by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, a standing committee of the state bar, is an extraordinary move by the body that regulates law licenses in the state against the sitting attorney general. It stems from complaints against Paxton for a lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court threw out, saying Texas lacked standing to sue and that Paxton’s political opponents called “frivolous.”

It seeks a sanction against Paxton, which will be determined by a judge, that could range from a private reprimand to disbarment.

In its filing, the commission said Paxton had misrepresented that he had uncovered substantial evidence that “raises serious doubts as to the integrity of the election process in the defendant states.”

“As a result of Respondent’s actions, Defendant States were required to expend time, money, and resources to respond to the misrepresentations and false statements contained in these pleadings and injunction requests even though they had previously certified their presidential electors based on the election results prior to the filing of Respondent’s pleadings,” the lawsuit read.

The lawsuit also says Paxton made “dishonest” representations that an “outcome determinative” number of votes were tied to unregistered voters, votes were switched by a glitch with voting machines, state actors had unconstitutionally revised their election statutes and “illegal votes” had been cast to affect the outcome of the election.

The lawsuit says Paxton’s allegations “were not supported by any charge, indictment, judicial finding, and/or credible or admissible evidence, and failed to disclose to the Court that some of his representations and allegations had already been adjudicated and/or dismissed in a court of law.”

The complaint asks for a finding of professional misconduct against Paxton, as well as attorney’s fees and “an appropriate sanction.”


The lawsuit against Paxton stems from multiple complaints filed by Kevin Moran, president of the Galveston Island Democrats; David Wellington Chew, former chief justice of the Eighth District Court of Appeals; attorney Neil Kay Cohen; attorney Brynne VanHettinga; and Gershon “Gary” Ratner, the co-founder of Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

See here, here, and here for some background; this post contains some technical details from the original complaint. As far as I can tell, this encompasses all of the 2020 election-related complaints against Paxton; there’s a separate complaint having to do with his threats against the Court of Criminal Appeals for not letting him prosecute “voter fraud” cases at his discretion, whose disposition is not known to me at this time. There’s also the complaint against Brent Webster, which will be litigated in Williamson County, and more recently a complaint against Ted Cruz that will presumably take some time to work its way through the system. That first 2020 election complaint against Paxton was filed last June, so it took nearly a year to get to this point. I have no idea if that’s a “normal” time span for this – I suspect nothing about this is “normal” anyway.

One more thing: I presume this was filed in Collin County because that’s where Paxton passed the bar, or some other technical reason like that. The Chron adds a bit of detail about that.

Under the state bar’s rules, disciplinary suits are filed in the county in which the attorney primarily practices. If there’s more than one, the bar files in the county where the attorney lives — Paxton indicated Collin County. Similarly, the suit against Webster was filed in his hometown of Williamson County. That determination is up to the subject of the suit, according to the rules.

Also per the bar’s rules, these suits are heard by an appointed judge from another district.

In Paxton’s case, it will be Judge Casey Blair of Kaufman County, a Republican elected in 2014. Webster’s case will be heard by Judge John Youngblood of Milam County, also a Republican who was first appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 and first elected in 2012.

Good to know. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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5 Responses to State Bar finally files that professional misconduct lawsuit against Paxton

  1. Kibitzer says:


    Unlike Ted Cruz, Paxton actually signed (e-signed) the offending document, so there is clear responsibility that can be pinned on him. He did it. Note that Texas court sanctions rules are also linked to signing of documents, though there are of course other types of conduct that can give rise to reprimand and/or punishment.

    That said, he did it (filed the complaint) in his official capacity (in the name of the State of Texas), so it is not obvious that this is to be treated as a matter of an attorney doing something wrong in the context of an attorney-client relationship.

    A key rationale for the attorney disciplinary system is the protection of the public (clients and would-be clients) from malfeasance and exploitation by a wayward attorney, so this is a rather different situation because “the client” is really the people of Texas, collectively speaking. When the AG litigates in the name of the State, he “is” in effect the (voice of the) state because the state is a juridical entity that cannot speak for itself. The State is also not a human being that can give instruction to its chief lawyer (unlike a normal client, whether an individual or a coporation that acts through its officers or through board resolutions). And accountability is not totally lacking because the AG is, after all, an elected officer that can be ditched by the statewide electorate (the clients-at-large, if you will) in the general elections. Or by his own party, in the primary.

    The other thing here is that the attorney misconduct (assuming there is good cause to so allege) was committed in front of a specific tribunal (the SCOTUS), so shouldn’t the SCOTUS impose discipline, rather than the State Bar of Texas, when the conduct complained of involves written factual and legal contentions presented to that court? Each court has inherent power to police those appearing before it, and censor them or hold them in contempt if warranted.

    The relevant court here is not even in the territorial reach of Texas.

    Nor is there a court referral for investigation by the state disciplinary authorities in this case.

    For all of these reasons and more, there is nothing normal about this one-of-a-kind attorney disciplinary proceeding.

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  3. Edward Stern says:

    This is very interesting, but it would be helpful to readers if you included a link to the suit by the State Bar Association. Then we could see the whole thing. I would read it.

  4. Edward – If I had a link, I assure you I’d have included it. At the time of this posting, I had not seen any links to the complaint.

  5. Kibitzer says:

    Here is the basic case data for CFLD v. PAXTON:

    Jurisdiction: Collin County District Clerk
    Case Number: 471-02574-2022
    Date Filed: 05/25/2022
    Case Type: All Other Civil Cases
    Status: Pending
    Style: Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr. 202006564; 202006566; 202101148; 202101678; 202104762
    Judicial Officer: Bouressa, Andrea in 471st District Court

    If you do a name search, you can also get info on his criminal cases in Collin County. Unfortunately, filed documents are not posted online and are paywalled in the eFiling system.

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