Ugh. Just, ugh.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday potentially imperiled the long-delayed criminal prosecution of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, ruling that payments to special prosecutors were outside legal limits.
If they cannot get paid, the prosecutors have suggested they could withdraw from the case against Paxton, a three-year-long legal saga that has dragged on in fits and starts amid side fights like the dispute over legal fees.
In its opinion Wednesday, the state’s highest criminal court said a lower trial court was wrong last year to approve a six-figure payment to the three special prosecutors handling the Paxton case. The prosecutors’ invoice was rejected by commissioners in Collin County — Paxton’s home county — touching off the legal fight that made its way to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
“Here, the trial court exceeded its authority by issuing an order for payment of frees that is not in accordance with an approved fee schedule containing reasonable fixed rates or minimum and maximum rates,” the opinion said.
The Court of Criminal Appeals invalidated the payment and ordered the lower court to re-issue it in accordance with the fee schedule.
“While we are disappointed with the majority’s ruling and are exploring all legal options available to us, it does not alter the fact that Ken Paxton remains charged with three serious felony offenses,” the prosecutors said in a statement responding to the ruling.
See here, here, and here for the background. I have no idea what happens next. A copy of the opinion is here, and the Observer has some thoughts. Maybe the prosecutors stick it out – maybe now Collin County will agree to pay them something reasonable, now that they can dictate the terms more. Maybe they step down and some other prosecutors step in. Maybe it all goes up in flames. The fact that we’re having this conversation at all is a scandal that needs to be addressed by the Lege. The possibility that Paxton may end up skating because the system as designed was not capable of finding a prosecutor for the charges against him is too gruesome to contemplate, so I’m not going to think about it any more today. Have some turkey or turkey-alternative, watch some football, and quit griping about how it’s Christmas season already. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.