The full (sort of) 5th Court of Appeals will decide whether to dismiss or uphold the indictments against AG Ken Paxton.
The 5th Court of Appeals announced late Friday that instead of the typical three-judge panel, nine of its 13 justices will hear oral arguments in Paxton’s case on May 12. Four justices stepped aside without explaining why.
State rules discourage appeals courts from hearing cases en banc, as full court panels are called, favoring three-judge panels except as required by “extraordinary circumstances.”
Oral arguments in Paxton’s case were wedged into an already busy docket that had hearings scheduled into the second week of June, another sign that the state appeals court was treating the Paxton case as an unusual situation — perhaps not surprising in a matter involving criminal charges against a sitting attorney general.
During oral arguments, each side will have 20 minutes to present their cases, with Paxton’s lawyers having an additional five minutes for “rejoinder.”
The appeals court will then take time — several months is not unusual — to research, write and issue an opinion, which will undoubtedly be challenged by the losing side at the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s top criminal court.
If the charges against Paxton are upheld, it is unlikely that his trial could begin until sometime in 2017.
See here and here for the background. The story says that this initial en banc hearing is “highly unusual”, but it gives no context to or examples of that, so we’re left to guess what that means. I know that with federal appeals courts, after a three-judge panel makes its ruling the losing side can then ask for an en banc review. If the procedure is the same with the state’s appeals courts, then I would guess this is about expediency. We know the ruling will be appealed, so why not combine steps here and save a bit of time? If the procedure isn’t the same, then I hope one of the lawyers in the audience can set things straight. Regardless, mark June on your calendar for the next episode in this drama.