Ethics Complaint: Update

Update on ethics compliant against Texas Attorney General 

June 28, 2021

May 7, 2024

Editorial credit: Shelby Knowles/Texas Tribune

Nearly three years ago, Lawyers Defending American Democracy, joined by former State Bar of Texas presidents, Texas legal ethics experts, and other distinguished Texas lawyers, filed a 31-page complaint against Texas Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr., a Texas-licensed lawyer.

The complaint asserted a pattern of serious ethical misconduct arising out of his involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The Texas State Bar, responding to several complaints, investigated and then filed a professional disciplinary petition against Mr. Paxton.

As part of his defense, Mr. Paxton moved to dismiss the petition in the Texas trial court, essentially arguing that doctrines of separation of powers and sovereign immunity immunized him from State Bar disciplinary proceedings for alleged violations of Texas’s ethics rules. The trial court denied Mr. Paxton’s motion and he appealed.

LDAD is pleased to report that on April 18th, the Dallas Court of Appeals dismissed Mr. Paxton’s pre-trial appeal, holding that, because the petition was filed against Mr. Paxton in his capacity as a Texas-licensed lawyer, and not in his official role, the court lacked jurisdiction. Importantly, the majority explicitly rejected Mr. Paxton’s claims of separation of powers and sovereign immunity.

LDAD is proud to have been joined in filing amicus briefs in the trial and appellate courts by sixteen distinguished Texas lawyers. LDAD Co-Founder Gershon (Gary) Ratner, who worked on the briefs, stated: “Texas statutes mandate that every Texas-licensed lawyer is subject to State Bar disciplinary proceedings for alleged violation of Texas’s ethics rules. Mr. Paxton made his alleged misrepresentations as a Texas-licensed lawyer. It’s essential that the state disciplinary bodies and the courts ensure that ‘no person is above the law.’”



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