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Paxton asks Texas Supreme Court to toss state bar sanctions over efforts to overturn 2020 election

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announces that he is suing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for federal overreach during a press conference Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Frisco Gun Club.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announces that he is suing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for federal overreach during a press conference Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Frisco Gun Club.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants the state's highest civil court to throw out state bar sanctions made against him in the wake of his failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

The state bar sued to punish Paxton in 2022 for asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block President Joe Biden's 2020 election win based on what it said were false claims of fraud. The Fifth Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in April to uphold the punishment.

In a press release Tuesday, Paxton's office said the ruling was "politically motivated lawfare" and called the state bar's sanction a retaliatory response to his good-faith concerns about the presidential election after Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.

"The State Bar’s attempt to sanction the Attorney General is an unconstitutional violation of the Texas Constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause and violates his sovereign immunity," Paxton's office wrote. "Nevertheless, over an erudite dissent, a sharply divided court of appeals permitted the Bar’s lawsuit to go forward."

The petition asks the Texas Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court’s decision and instruct the Collin County trial court to dismiss the state bar’s complaint.

In a December 2020 lawsuit, Paxton argued changes to election statutes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin during the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional. The suit also alleged voters in majority Democratic jurisdictions were treated more favorably.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that lawsuit days later.

The state bar’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline alleged Paxton misrepresented facts of the election with claims that weren’t supported by any evidence. The commission accused Paxton of professional misconduct by violating the bar’s rules.

In his appeal to the Fifth Court of Appeals, Paxton argued he’s protected by sovereign immunity as the attorney general. The court wrote in its opinion the suit is against Paxton’s actions as an individual, not as an elected official, and dismissed his appeal.

“Regulating the practice of law in Texas and maintaining minimum standards of conduct for its attorneys does not control state action or implicate the sovereign’s liability for filing any particular suit, including Texas v. Pennsylvania,” the opinion reads.

Toluwani Osibamowo