Legal Battle over Texas AG Misconduct to Proceed in District Court Post-Impeachment Acquittal

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, impeached by the Texas House on May 27, 2023, and acquitted by the Texas Senate on September 26, 2023, on 16 articles of impeachment, finds his case continuing in the Travis County District Court.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on September 29 that a whistleblower lawsuit brought by his former employees could proceed from a February abatement that paused the case. Paxton had requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.

James Blake Brickman, David Maxwell, J. Mark Penley, and Ryan Vassar are four out of eight employees who reported Paxton to the FBI for bribery, tampering with government records, obstruction of justice, harassment, and abuse of office and were subsequently removed from his office. These four sued Paxton for wrongful termination and retaliation.

This came from the claim that Paxton had broken the law by using his position to serve the interests of donor and developer Nate Paul. Read more about their relationship here.

They allege that Paxton retaliated and violated the Texas Whistleblower Act by firing them in the fall of 2020 after they filed a complaint with the FBI.

The Texas Whistleblower Act purports to protect public employees who make a good-faith report of wrongdoing from being terminated. When an employee is illegally terminated, a lawsuit is filed against the agency. So, in this case, the lawsuit is against the Office of the Attorney General.

According to The Texas Tribune, Paxton has responded with denial, calling the whistleblowers “rogue employees” with “false” claims. He also claims to not know the specific allegations against him.

The group claims they “approached Paxton multiple times about their concerns with his push to get involved in Paul’s affairs before reporting him to the FBI.” Whistleblower Network News reporter Ana Popovich noted that the lawsuit “details specific dates when the whistleblowers individually and as a group warned Paxton that his actions in legal matters related to Paul were unlawful.”

Paxton and his supporters have emphasized that under the Texas Whistleblower Act, claimants’ settlements come from tax dollars as a way to turn the public against the whistleblowers. Brickman points out that this is not special to their case: “The people that pay for the actual judgment, like any other judgment against the State of Texas, are the taxpayers of Texas. And that payment has to be approved by the Legislature. So that’s how the law works.”

With the impeachment trial over and the whistleblower lawsuit moving forward, Brickman stated in a news conference on September 25, “The political trial is over, and it’s time for the case to return to a real court.”

The whistleblowers’ attorneys are looking forward to obtaining a trial date and preparing the case for trial as soon as possible.

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