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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton can be disciplined for suit to overturn 2020 election, court says

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas appeals court has ruled that Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton can face discipline from the state bar association over his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

A disciplinary committee of the State Bar of Texas accused Paxton in 2022 of making false claims of fraud in a lawsuit that questioned President Joe Biden’s victory. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals said Paxton can be sanctioned by the committee because the lawsuit seeks to punish him in his personal capacity as an attorney and not as a public official.

“The focus of the Commission’s allegations is squarely on Paxton’s alleged misconduct — not that of the State,” Judge Erin Nowell, an elected Democrat, wrote in the 2-1 opinion.

The lone Republican on the panel, Judge Emily Miskel, was in dissent.

A similar lawsuit was also brought against one of Paxton’s top deputies. Earlier this week, a coalition of state Republican attorneys general urged the Texas Supreme Court to reject efforts by the bar to impose discipline. All nine members of the state’s highest civil court are Republicans.

“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,” Paxton spokeswoman Paige Willey said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the State Bar of Texas and the committee accusing Paxton declined to comment on the ruling.

Paxton is among the highest-profile attorneys to face a threat of sanctions for aiding in efforts led by former President Donald Trump to throw into question Trump’s defeat.

The state bar’s disciplinary group’s punishments against an attorney can range from a written admonition to a suspension or disbarment. The disciplinary process resembles a trial and could include both sides eliciting testimony and obtaining records through discovery.

Paxton is not required to have bar membership in order to serve as attorney general.

State bar officials began investigating complaints over Paxton’s election lawsuit in 2021. A similar disciplinary proceeding was launched by the group against Paxton’s top deputy. That case awaits a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court.

Acacia Coronado, The Associated Press


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