The Dallas Court of Appeals has issued a stay preventing the Collin County Commissioners Court from disbursing payments to a group of private attorneys who have been prosecuting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The order came down as the commissioners’ court was set to vote on whether to approve the prosecutors’ bills or file their own suit challenging them.
Houston criminal defense attorneys Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice have so far billed the County more than $600,000 on the Paxton case. After paying the men $369,914.75 last year, the commissioners voted 5-0 to challenge future bills that fall outside of Collin County’s typical pay structure for appointed counsel, which usually would limit pre-trial compensation to just $2,000.
The Court of Appeals ruled in the context of a suit brought by Jeff Blackard, a Collin County taxpayer who has been suing to prevent the county from spending money on the prosecution in ways he alleges are unlawful. Following the court’s ruling, the Collin County commissioners voted to postpone their consideration of the bills and to delay any further payments until the Court of Appeals rules further on the issue.
The Court’s order requires attorneys for Wice and Schaffer, as well as attorneys for Blackard, to submit further briefing by February 9th. The court will consider whether to extend the injunction at that time.