I feel slightly weird about this.
Six top officials and employees at the Texas attorney general’s office have taken a leave of absence to help defend suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton in his impeachment trial this summer.
Those employees are solicitor general Judd Stone, the agency’s top appellate lawyer; assistant solicitors general Joseph N. Mazzara and Kateland Jackson; Chris Hilton, chief of the general litigation division; senior attorney Allison Collins; and executive assistant Jordan Eskew.
The news was first reported by the conservative website The Daily Wire. Jarrod Griffin, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, confirmed the report to The Texas Tribune.
Prior to Tuesday, it was unclear who would serve as Paxton’s lawyers in the impeachment trial before the Texas Senate.
I can’t fully articulate why this feels weird to me. I just didn’t expect his employees to be the ones taking on the task of defending him in the Senate. I guess I assumed he’d hire a couple of high-priced private attorneys, who would most likely be financed by his fat cat supporters. That’s icky in its own way, while this is almost heartwarming – they’re loyal enough to go without pay for some number of weeks to save his bacon! – and yet it still just has strange vibes to me. We don’t have the Senate rules yet about the trial, but this would seem to be within whatever those rules turn out to be. Is it weird that I think this is weird? I assume these people were all hand-picked by Paxton and would likely move on if they fail. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. What do you think? Oh, and how do you think they feel about going up against these guys?
While you ponder that, here’s a Chron story about the guy who had been temporarily filling in for Paxton as AG.
The Attorney General’s Office has announced that First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster will be the temporary replacement for Ken Paxton, who was impeached by the Texas House last week.
As first assistant attorney general, Webster represented Texas taxpayers in Paxton’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 election results for Donald Trump.
Webster started working for the office at a tumultuous time in October 2020, shortly after eight top aides reported Paxton to law enforcement, accusing him of taking bribes and abusing the authority of his office. Paxton fired the whistleblowers and hired new department heads, including Webster.
In December 2020, Webster signed his name to an unsuccessful suit filed by Paxton before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential wins in four battleground states.
The State Bar of Texas later sued Paxton and Webster for professional misconduct for his part in the suit, arguing that it made dishonest and misleading statements about the existence of voter fraud, including many that had already been debunked in other courts in the country. The case against Paxton is ongoing, and a judge dismissed the case against Webster, though the bar is appealing.
Top Republicans have come to their defense, with Abbott saying the case “raise(s) separation-of-powers questions under our Constitution” and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calling it “politically motivated.”
The whistleblowers in their suit are seeking $15,000 in civil damages against Webster, as well as Paxton, for adverse personnel action taken in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act. According to the suit, Webster had a role in firing all four and is accused of using intimidation tactics and pressuring some of them to resign.
I drafted this before the news about John Scott’s appointment as temporary AG, so this is less important now. Maybe the upside of Scott as temporary AG is that the agency, which does have basic operational things to do, is now being led by someone who’s not a close personal friend of Ken Paxton and might have something on their mind other than getting him off on the impeachment charges. Just a thought.
Anyway. We’ve discussed the State Bar’s actions against Webster before. I believe this is the first report I’ve seen that the judge’s ruling dismissing the case has been appealed; I’m delighted to see that. Beyond that, Brent Webster is to me basically like Angela Paxton, in that his moral qualities are severely limited by his voluntary association with Ken Paxton. We kind of already know everything we need to know about him. And now we can worry a little bit less about it.