AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the Senate to dismiss the articles of impeachment he faces in his upcoming trial, arguing the bulk of allegations happened before his most recent election to a third term.
In two related motions filed to the Senate on Monday, Paxton’s attorneys argued that impeaching him would usurp the will of voters — considering the majority of allegations were already public and Texans still reelected the attorney general. Paxton’s defense team cited state law known as “prior-term doctrine,” arguing Texas prevents the removal of a public official for alleged conduct that happened prior to their most recent election.
“The Articles allege nothing that Texas voters have not heard from the Attorney General’s losing political opponents — and their donors and supporters — for years. None of the allegations that occurred prior to January 2023 and make up nineteen of the Articles of Impeachment can or should be considered by this court.”
According to Chapter 665 of the Texas Government Code, “an officer in this state may not be removed from office for an act the officer may have committed before the officer’s election to office.”
While the law does not outline whether that applies to a most recent election or the first election for an official to that particular office, Paxton’s defense team points to legal precedent they argue backs their interpretation of the code.
Paxton’s team is asking for 19 of the 20 articles of impeachment to be dismissed. The exception is for an article related to conduct that happened this year, in reference to the $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit settlement Paxton reached with former employees who first raised corruption concerns.
In a second motion, Paxton’s defense lawyers ask to exclude all evidence of any alleged conduct that occurred before January of this year.
“There is little to no evidence whatsoever that supports their baseless allegations of wrongdoing, much less evidence that can support impeachment,” they wrote.
Impeachment trial rules and procedures
As President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will preside over the upcoming trial and act as a judge. Patrick and the Senate set the rules for the trial at the end of June. All senators will serve as the jury in the court of impeachment, voting individually on each article. Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, is barred from voting on any of the articles.
At the end of May, the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton 121-23, causing his immediate suspension from office. No aspect of the trial will include criminal charges; senators’ vote will determine whether or not Paxton must be permanently removed from office. The allegations against Paxton include bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction. The Republican has faced controversies and criminal charges hanging over his tenure.
Patrick will decide on whether to grant these two motions, along with requests, like team Paxton’s ask to remove three Democratic senators from the jury. All parties involved in impeachment are prohibited from discussing these matters publicly, per a gag order Patrick issued earlier in July.
Attorneys presenting the impeachment articles on behalf of the House board of impeachment managers have not filed any responding motions, as of 3:30 p.m. on Monday.