The Collin County Commissioners Court today voted to deny further payment of invoices to Houston-based attorneys appointed to prosecute Texas’ Attorney General. The special prosecutors will likely appeal the decision to the Dallas Court of Appeals.
The motion to deny payment passed 4-0, with County Judge Keith Self and Commissioners Cheryl Williams and Susan Fletcher joining Commissioner Chris Hill in voting for Hill’s motion.
The court’s action included a request that District Judge George Gallagher – who ordered Collin County to pay the Paxton prosecutors $300 per hour – explain his legal rationale for doing so. To date, Collin County taxpayers have been bilked for over $600,000 in pre-trial fees in the Paxton witch-hunt.
Indeed, the Paxton prosecution is both politically motivated and without any legal basis. A nearly identical civil case brought in federal court by the Obama administration’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was dismissed, twice. The case against Paxton was thrown out after SEC officials were unable to articulate any factual theory that would amount to a violation of securities laws.
Given the failure of the SEC to even articulate a theory under which Paxton violated securities laws, it is impossible the special prosecutors will be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair trial that the attorney general is guilty of a criminal violation of those laws.
The county’s decision to deny payment follows an April order made by Gallagher to move the Paxton trial to Harris County. The decision gave the special prosecutors in the case – two criminal attorneys from Houston – home-court advantage while denying Paxton his constitutional rights to a speedy trial and a jury of his peers.
The Dallas Court of Appeals then stayed further proceedings pending a hearing on Paxton’s petition for mandamus and prohibition against Judge Gallagher.
Collin County taxpayers were faced with the prospect of paying millions of dollars on a witch-hunt in Harris County.
Gallagher’s order that the prosecutors be paid $300 per hour appeared to violate state law and local rules. A Collin County taxpayer, Jeff Blackard, has sued to prevent the illegal payments. The Dallas Court of Appeals initially stayed further payments from Collin County but, just last week, ordered the Collin County Commissioners to vote on the issue before the Blackard case would proceed.
In light of a Texas Supreme Court decision in Henry v. Cox on Friday, it appears likely the courts will rule that the Collin County Commissioners have the final authority over the county’s purse strings, not Judge Gallagher. If the court upholds the commissioners’ decision, the Paxton prosecutors will have to decide whether they want to proceed on the case free of charge.