Collin County must immediately stop paying the three lawyers prosecuting Ken Paxton’s criminal fraud case, a Dallas court has said.
The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas on Monday temporarily halted the payments — the result of a lawsuit filed against the county and prosecutors by a local taxpayer — and will consider a more permanent block probably within the next few weeks. The court’s decision could determine the immediate future of the case against Paxton, the first-term attorney general who faces three felony charges of violating state securities laws.
The Collin County Commissioners Court handles the local budget. Its five Republican members were scheduled to vote Monday on the prosecutors’ latest bill, which tops $205,000 for a year’s worth of work.
Instead, they delayed the vote and any future payments to the prosecutors until the court weighs in. The prosecutors will not stop working in the meantime, their lawyer David Feldman said.
“My clients are going to rely on the fact that they’re going to get paid,” said Feldman, who said he was surprised by the court’s decision Monday.
See here and here for the background. And yes, another lawsuit by the same plaintiff had just been thrown out on procedural grounds, but with the prosecutors submitting another bill, the frequent filer got another shot at it. Attorney Feldman had more to say about this to the Statesman.
Dave Feldman, the lawyer representing the three prosecutors, said Blackard is trying to hamstring the prosecution of Paxton, who has been accused of securities fraud linked to private business deals in 2011.
“He’s just a rich stalking horse for Ken Paxton. They’re trying to starve the beast,” Feldman said.
An adverse ruling could hinder Paxton’s prosecution, Feldman said. “Nobody does work for nothing,” he said.
Eddie Greim, a lawyer for Blackard, said his client is not trying to sandbag the case against Paxton.
“The (prosecutors) have tried to make this about a political issue, and they have tried to attack the person that they are criminally prosecuting. But in fact this case is about following the rule of law and making sure that when the Texas Legislature passes a rule that it is in fact applied equally to everyone,” Greim said.
Blackard has argued that state law and Collin County rules limit appointed lawyers, including prosecutors, to $1,000 each for pretrial work and $1,000 per day of trial.
District Judge George Gallagher has ordered Collin County to pay the prosecutors $300 an hour, saying county rules allow for higher rates for “unusual circumstances.” Gallagher last year also rejected an effort by Paxton’s defense lawyers to limit the prosecutors’ pretrial pay to $1,000 each.
The pay that Collin County would offer is ridiculous. I understand why Collin County is reluctant to pay the amount they will be billed, but 1) if their DA hadn’t been a crony of Paxton’s this wouldn’t be a problem, and 2) suck it up, buttercup. If you want to make a case to the Lege that the state should pick up part or all of the cost of a special prosecutor in cases like this, go for it. I think there’s merit to that argument. Or, you know, you could just hand it all off to a specialized team that handles government corruption cases, like the Public Integrity Unit at the Travis County DA’s office. But until such a law is passed, this is how it is. Attacking the pay that the special prosecutors earn for putting aside their regular jobs is just a way to subvert the system. The Fifth Court needs to stop it. The Chron and the Current have more.