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Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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Court Restricts AG Paxton’s Efforts to Prosecute Voter Fraud

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton | Image by Getty Images

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The state’s highest criminal appellate court on Wednesday reaffirmed a previous ruling that found Attorney General Ken Paxton does not have unilateral authority to prosecute election crimes.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, composed of nine Republicans elected statewide, voted 7-2 that the attorney general must get permission from local county prosecutors to pursue cases on issues like voter fraud.

This week’s ruling affirms an 8-1 ruling by the same court in December, striking down a law that previously allowed Paxton’s office to take on those cases without local consent. The court ruled the law violated the separation-of-powers clause in the Texas Constitution.

Paxton had been fighting to overturn the December judgment, urging supporters to flood the court with phone calls and emails demanding a new decision.

Still, the court held firm in ruling that the attorney general can only get involved in criminal cases when invited by a local prosecutor.

The court’s decision Wednesday came with no additional explanation, though one judge wrote a concurring opinion.

“I still agree with our original decision handed down in December, when we recognized that the specific powers given to the Attorney General by the Texas Constitution do not include the ability to initiate criminal proceedings — even in cases involving alleged violations of the Election Code,” Judge Scott Walker wrote.

Walker wrote that the only potential remedy for expanding the attorney general’s prosecutorial powers is a “constitutional amendment — something the legislature could propose and the citizens could vote to ratify.”

“The remedy is not for the courts to water down the Texas Constitution from the bench. To do so would be a violation of our judicial oath,” wrote Walker.

In a tweet Wednesday, Paxton agreed with Walker that it is up to the Texas Legislature must “right this wrong” but called the decision “shameful.”

“The CCA’s shameful decision means local DAs with radical liberal views have the sole power to prosecute election fraud in TX — which they will never do,” Paxton said. “The timing is no accident — this is devastating for the integrity of our upcoming elections.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), an Austin-based conservative think tank, proposed two possible legislative reforms in the aftermath of the ruling.

One of the group’s recommendations is to establish an “Office of Election Integrity” to investigate election fraud and report its findings to the Legislature. The other suggestion is to create new regional districts with district attorneys and judges specifically assigned to handle election cases.

“The ability of our state’s election system to efficiently collect and accurately count every legal vote should never be in question. However, today that is unfortunately the case,” said TPPF CEO Greg Sindelar.

“If the courts won’t protect our elections by faithfully interpreting our state Constitution, then the Legislature must step in to clarify the rules, implement better checks and balances, and dedicate a standalone capability to investigate election fraud and ensure our system protects every vote.”

Judge Michelle Slaughter and Kevin Yeary filed dissenting opinions.

In Slaughter’s dissent, the judge argues if local district attorneys are not prosecuting election law, they would not be fulfilling their legal duty, and the attorney general could step in without violating the separation of powers.

“Therefore, in such narrow situations where the DA affirmatively or expressly chooses not to prosecute an ‘election law’ violation, it may be constitutionally permissible for the AG to do so under the statutory power assigned to him by the Legislature,” she wrote.

On the other side, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair and state Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington applauded the court’s decision.

“This court ruling upholds the integrity of our state’s judicial system,” Turner said. “With this ruling, Ken Paxton cannot target Texans to further his political games. Instead, duly-elected district and county attorneys will remain in charge of prosecutions in their districts without partisan meddling from the attorney general.”

Turner also highlighted the ruling’s potential implications beyond voting. The court’s decision stands to make it more difficult in the next legislative session to expand Paxton’s office’s power to prosecute abortion providers in counties where district attorneys have vowed, they will not bring charges.

“Most importantly, this means Paxton cannot go after women for seeking life-saving, reproductive health care or undermine our democracy by interfering in fair elections,” Turner said. “This ruling is a win for law and order, and for the people of Texas.”

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Lanie
Lanie
1 month ago

Why would Paxton try to change the voting when it’s obvious there were enough idiots out there that voted him into office when it has been shown he is criminal and shouldn’t even be allowed to hold office. Just hoping there are enough voters out there that show up at the polls and vote him out and I’m a Republican.

Bill Fox
Bill Fox
Reply to  Lanie
1 month ago

Exactly.

Anna
Anna
1 month ago

Paxtons right the radical liberal District Attorneys will NEVER prosecute voter fraud cases, ever!! Shameful at best!

Max Frisson
Max Frisson
1 month ago

Paxton, Abbott & Patrick combo has got to be the worst administration in Texas history. They try to rule from Austin without local concerns, This story is a perfect example.

WHAT VOTER FRAUD IS KEN SO WORRIED ABOUT?
He would have to create crimes to prosecute or better persecute with his overreach for power.

I don’t really want a Beto administration either, but come early voting, and I will step up and vote in opposition to The Three Stooges,

Greg, Ken, and Danny must go. Beto will be a limited-power governor due to the Republican legislature but better than the broad embarrassment of Dumb, dumber, and dumbest.

You know what I somethings contemplate? What if the Successionists, and there are more than a few of them, decided to attempt a revolution and Texas’ executive branch went along…

RiverKing
RiverKing
1 month ago

Why are there state Attorneys General at all if they must have local DA approval to prosecute offenders? The Texas Legislature must correct this in the next session.