The whistleblower lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton has once again been put on pause, this time by a judge who had not been previously involved in the case.
The Texas Supreme Court agreed to jumpstart the case in late September after the state Senate acquitted Paxton in an impeachment trial that centered on the whistleblower claims. But on Tuesday morning, Paxton’s office asked a Burnet County judge, Evan Stubbs, for an emergency temporary restraining order, claiming the whistleblowers violated the tentative settlement they reached in February by asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the case, which had been filed in Travis County. Stubbs agreed within hours, ordering the whistleblowers to halt their litigation for at least a week.
Stubbs set a Nov. 14 hearing on Paxton’s petition for a temporary injunction.
“This lawsuit is Ken Paxton’s latest cowardly attempt to avoid testifying under oath,” TJ Turner and Tom Nesbitt, lawyers for two of the whistleblowers, said in a statement. “Just like he hid out during his impeachment trial, sheltered from giving testimony, he’ll do anything to avoid accountability.”
In its filing Tuesday, Paxton’s office accused the whistleblowers of breaching the settlement agreement by “seeking to resume discovery” last week in the case. The whistleblowers gave notice they planned to subpoena impeachment records and take depositions, according to Paxton’s office.
The filing did not directly name the people the whistleblowers wanted to depose, but it did ask Stubbs to specifically shield Paxton; Brent Webster; the first assistant attorney general; Lesley French Henneke, chief of staff at the office; and Michelle Smith, Paxton’s longtime political aide.
In issuing the temporary restraining order, Stubbs said there is “good cause to believe [the whistleblowers] have engaged, are engaged, and will continue to engage in acts and practices inconsistent with the Mediated Settlement Agreement.”
In that agreement, Paxton said he would apologize and his office would pay the $3.3 million. But the Legislature, which must approve settlements of that size, declined to authorize the payment during this year’s regular session. Paxton then attempted to have the case dismissed, but the state Supreme Court rejected his request.
Court records show Paxton’s office filed its lawsuit at 9:32 a.m. and Stubbs issued the temporary restraining order less than four hours later. Nesbitt said the whistleblowers’ attorneys were not given a chance to respond or appear before the judge.
Paxton’s office said it made its filing in Burnet County — a small rural county bordering Travis County — because one of the whistleblowers, Maxwell, lives there. The rest of the whistleblowers live in Austin or Dallas, which are in larger counties with judges that are heavily Democratic.
See here for the previous update. Ken Paxton has one core competency, and it’s a strong one that borders on being a superpower: He is very skilled at finding judges who are ready and willing to give him everything he wants. It is my hope that SCOTx will not be amused by this nonsense, and if the judge in Burnet County insists on further meddling that they will respond quickly and forcefully to a writ of mandamus.