Collin County officials expect to budget $100,000 to prosecute Attorney General Ken Paxton, but hope to eventually slash that amount by two-thirds.
The county Commissioners Court on Monday evening is expected to discuss how much it will cost to pay the three special prosecutors appointed to try Paxton, who was indicted in July on three felony charges of violating state securities laws.
Judge Keith Self, who sits on the five-member court, said he expects the panel to approve an allocation of $100,000 for the prosecution, but he hopes that amount will be cut to $33,000 once the county begins receiving invoices from the prosecutors.
Last week, the commissioners court unanimously passed a resolution urging Judge George Gallagher, the Tarrant County jurist presiding over Paxton’s case, to cap prosecution costs at the lower figure, citing Collin County’s rules surrounding indigent defense.
On Monday, Self told the Chronicle that Gallagher had responded to the request by noting he could not predict the total final cost of the prosecution.
“He wrote me a very cordial note back and said that he was unable to estimate expenses and time of the trial. So, he was unable to shed any light on the expenses,” said Self, who said while $100,000 will be budgeted, he thinks spending that amount would violate the county’s rules regarding a prosecution of this kind.
“We read the law as being very clear,” said Self. “We’re trying to be cautious with our budgeting.”
Texas law states that an attorney pro tem who not a state attorney like Willis “shall receive compensation in the same amount and manner as an attorney appointed to represent an indigent person.”
Each county sets its indigent defense fee schedule. Some counties, like Harris and Travis, have no caps but require fees to be “reasonable.” Collin County’s, in contrast, places specific dollar restrictions on indigent defense.
See here for the background. The problem here is in those last two paragraphs. Collin County doesn’t allocate enough money for indigent defense, which in this case leaves them in the lurch for the special prosecutor they had to get since Ken Paxton is everyone’s buddy. One of those buddies is threatening to sue if they wind up spending any more than that $33K. The special prosecutors could take one for the team and agree to work for pittance wages, but they shouldn’t have to, and the judge shouldn’t feel any compunction to let them or to make them. Let this play out as it will, and if Collin County winds up holding the bag, maybe they’ll reconsider their penurious ways with indigent defense. I’m sure they can afford it. Trail Blazers has more.