Bar Association Can Punish Paxton, Court Rules

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton | Image by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images

A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that Attorney General Ken Paxton is not immune to punishment from the state bar association for his actions to allegedly overturn the 2020 election in multiple states.

A panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state bar association could punish the attorney general since it would be punishing him for his actions as an attorney, not in his role as the state’s attorney general, according to Fox 4 KDFW.

This ruling comes after a disciplinary panel from the State Bar of Texas claimed in 2022 that Paxton made false accusations in a lawsuit that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The lawsuit, Texas v. Pennsylvania, attempted to delay the certification of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. However, the case was ultimately dismissed due to a lack of physical evidence.

“Every attorney admitted to practice in Texas, including those representing a government agency, is subject to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, both promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court,” wrote the judges in the opinion, per the Austin American-Statesman.

Paxton argued that the case should be dismissed since he was acting in his role as the attorney general, but the court clarified that he could be punished as a licensed lawyer for choosing to file an allegedly dishonest lawsuit.

“Subjecting Paxton to disciplinary proceedings does not violate separation of powers; immunizing him does,” continued the judges in the decision, according to MSNBC News.

Paige Willey, director of communications for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement that Paxton’s legal team will begin the process to appeal this case because they believe it was an incorrect ruling.

“As in that case, we will appeal this ruling and we have full confidence the Supreme Court of Texas will not allow false claims by the State Bar and partisan political revenge to affect professional licensure of the state’s lawyers,” she said in a statement, as reported by Fox 4.

Paxton could face punishment ranging from a written admonition to a suspension or disbarment from the association, with the process being similar to a trial in which each side will have time to present their cases, per ABC News.

Paxton will be allowed to remain as the Texas attorney general regardless of the punishment, as a license is not required for the role, per MSNBC.

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