Attorney General Ken Paxton is proposing a new rule to enhance reporting requirements for district and county attorneys. 

The new rule would apply to district and county attorneys in counties with a population of 250,000 or more. Currently, around 20 counties would fit the parameter—including Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, and El Paso. 

According to Paxton, “These enhanced reporting standards will create much-needed transparency and enable the public to hold their elected officials accountable.”

The required quarterly reports would include the following information:

  • The case file regarding any decision to indict a peace officer; 
  • The case file regarding any decision to indict a poll watcher; 
  • The case file in any prosecution where a defendant has raised a justification under Chapter 9 of the Penal Code, Subchapters C and/or D;
  • The case file for any case where a recommendation is made to a judicial body that a person subject to a final judgment of conviction be released from prison before the expiration of their sentence;
  • The case file regarding any prosecution for which the Texas Governor has announced that The Office of the Texas Governor is considering a pardon;
  • The case file regarding any prosecution for which the Attorney General, through the OAG’s Oversight Advisory Committee, has concluded there are substantial doubts whether probable cause exists to support a prosecution;
  • All correspondence regarding any decision not to indict a person who was arrested by the Texas Department of Public Safety for a violent crime;
  • All correspondence regarding any decision not to indict a person who was arrested for committing a violent crime;
  • All correspondence and other documentation describing and analyzing a reporting entity’s policy not to indict a category or sub-category of criminal offenses;
  • All correspondence with any employee of a federal agency regarding a decision whether to indict an individual;
  • All correspondence with any non-profit organization regarding a decision whether to indict an individual; and
  • Correspondence or other records memorializing assistant district attorney or assistant county attorney resignations or terminations and the reasons therefore where a complaint was made, formally or informally, by the assistant district attorney or assistant county attorney.

The new rule also defines violent crime to ensure all relevant information is reported. 

According to the new rule, violent crime “includes but is not limited to capital murder, murder, other felony homicides, aggravated assault, sexual assault of an adult, indecency with or sexual assault of a child, family violence assault, aggravated robbery or robbery, burglary, theft, automobile theft, any crime listed in Code of Criminal Procedure § 17.50(3), and any attempt to commit such crimes.”

The annual reports will require the submission of any internal policy changes as well as certain financial accounting.

Paxton’s office explained that “the information collected under the proposed rule will assist citizens in determining whether their local elected officials are inadequately prosecuting certain categories of crime, releasing dangerous criminals back into the community, engaging in selective prosecution, or otherwise failing to uphold their obligations.”

“District Attorneys who choose not to prosecute criminals appropriately have created unthinkable damage in Texas communities,” said Paxton. “Some of these officials have developed an unacceptable pattern of failing to uphold the law and adopting policies that privilege criminals over innocent victims.” 

In an effort to curb this behavior from activist district and county attorneys, lawmakers passed House Bill 17 last year, which prohibits the DA or county attorney from adopting a policy that refuses to prosecute a certain class of crime. 

This legislation followed a decision in the summer of 2022 of five Texas DAs—Jose Garza (Travis County), John Creuzot (Dallas County), Joe Gonzales (Bexar County), Mark Gonzalez (Nueces County), and Brian Middleton (Fort Bend County)—who announced their refusal to prosecute illegal abortions.

This was not the first time local district attorneys hand-selected which crimes to punish. In 2019, Creuzot announced he would not prosecute some “low-level” and nonviolent crimes.

Paxton’s new rule would serve as another accountability check on district and county attorneys. 

A public comment period of 30 days went into effect on March 8. After the comment period ends, the Office of the Attorney General can enact a final rule.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.