AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The State Bar of Texas filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top deputy on Friday, saying the attorney was dishonest in his reasons for contesting the 2020 election results to the United States Supreme Court.
Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on social media he was expecting the lawsuit with a message to the Texas Bar saying, “I’ll see you and the leftists that control you in court.”
“I have recently learned that the Texas State Bar — which has been waging a months-long witch-hunt against me — now plans to sue me and my top deputy for filing Texas v. Penn: the historic challenge to the unconstitutional 2020 presidential election joined by nearly half of all the states and over a hundred members of Congress,” Paxton said in a statement on his social media. “I stand by this lawsuit completely.”
The Commission for Lawyer Discipline, which is part of the State Bar, filed a disciplinary petition in the 368th Judicial District Court in Williamson County against Brent Edward Webster, the First Assistant to the Attorney General, for his role in Texas’ challenge to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral victories in four swing states — Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The petition said Webster’s representations to the U.S. Supreme Court were “dishonest,” and the allegations were “not supported by any charge, indictment, judicial finding, and/or credible or admissible evidence.”
“His allegations were not supported by any charge, indictment, judicial finding, and/or credible or admissible evidence, and failed to disclose to the Court that some of his representations and allegations had already been adjudicated and/or dismissed in a court of law,” the petition said.
Hours after releasing his statement, Paxton announced he would be investigating the nonprofit arm of the bar, the Texas Bar Foundation, for “facilitating mass influx of illegal aliens.” His office’s press release accused the foundation of “donating money to groups that ‘encourage, participate in, and fund illegal immigration at the Texas-Mexico border.'”
Texas Bar Foundation chair-elect Alistair Dawson said Paxton is misinformed about the foundation’s charitable donations. Dawson said donations are funded by Texas lawyers, not taxpayers.
“The Foundation is extremely disappointed to learn that AG Paxton has decided to use taxpayer dollars on a fruitless exercise,” Dawson said. “Had AG Paxton taken the time to come and speak with us rather than issue a press release, I am confident that he would have found no wrongdoing on the part of the Foundation.”
State Bar of Texas president Sylvia Borunda Firth released a statement in response to Paxton calling the investigation into his misconduct a “witch-hunt.” She said the group is “dedicated to fostering ethical conduct in the legal profession and protecting the public through the attorney discipline system.”
“The system is designed to ensure fairness to all parties. Partisan political considerations play no role in determining whether to pursue a grievance or how that grievance proceeds through the system. Any claims to the contrary are untrue,” Firth said.
University of Texas Law School professor Charles Silver said the State Bar does not typically file lawsuits against attorneys but processes and investigates complaints.
“If the State Bar is convinced that Attorney General Paxton initiated a lawsuit for an improper purpose, then it has a duty to make that finding and impose some sort of a sanction,” Silver said.
The State Bar can suspend or even disbar lawyers for professional misconduct. Texas’ constitution does not require bar membership as a credential for holding the office of the Attorney General, however.
Last year, nonprofit Lawyers Defending American Democracy, as well as 16 Texas attorneys, filed a complaint against Paxton for his lawsuit’s trying to overturn 2020 election results in those four states.
“He has no legal justification on Earth to challenge how other states conduct their elections,” said Jim Harrington, one of the Texas attorneys involved in the filing. “And there was absolutely no factual basis that you could allege that this election was not won by Joe Biden.”
While Paxton described the State Bar as “a liberal activist group masquerading as a neutral political association,” Silver said the entity exists to uphold the integrity of the law, not politics.
“Most of what the State Bar does is not something that partisan parties have any interest in,” Silver said. “They’re not going to undertake something like this unless they believe there is good cause for doing so.”
This isn’t the first time there have been allegations of misconduct against Paxton. In 2015, Paxton was indicted on felony securities fraud charges. Last year, seven of his top aids reported him to the FBI over bribery and abuse of office accusations. He is now facing wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuits from those former aids.
On May 24, Paxton will face off against George P. Bush for the Republican nomination for Attorney General in a runoff election.