The legal team for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a motion to dismiss all but one of the articles of impeachment against him. They say that is because the alleged misconduct occurred prior to the 2022 general election and is therefore void under the so-called prior-term doctrine.
Prior-term doctrine, based on Texas Government Code 665, holds that because citizens are the ultimate authority in electing people to public office, if allegations of misconduct are known to the public prior to the election, then the alleged misconduct cannot be the basis for removing a public official from office.
According to Paxton’s team, the “prior-term doctrine provides a necessary safeguard to the Legislature’s awesome impeachment power by affirming the authority of ‘the public, as the ultimate judge and jury’ to elect their preferred candidates. Without this guiding principle, impeachment becomes a tool for political retaliation and abuse.”
In a rushed proceeding on Memorial Day weekend, Texas House leadership unveiled a secret investigation into Paxton and called a rushed vote on impeachment. With 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans in support, the House voted to impeach Paxton on 20 charges of misapplication of public resources, bribery, obstruction of justice, abuse of public trust, and disregard of official duties.
Now, the Senate is preparing to hold a trial to decide whether or not to uphold the impeachment articles and remove Paxton from office.
As part of the rules decided on by the Senate, both Paxton and the House impeachment managers are allowed to file pre-trial motions, much like a court of law.
In the latest filing, Paxton’s team says impeachment Articles 1-7 and 9-20 should be dismissed due to prior-term doctrine:
Such behavior should not be rewarded. Texas voters elected Attorney General Paxton to office three consecutive times—most recently mere months before the House secretly began crafting these Articles of Impeachment. By dismissing Articles I through VII and IX through XX, this court can reaffirm its commitment to the rule of law and precedent and its respect for the sovereign will of Texas’s voters.
Much like the motion to exclude evidence of any alleged conduct that occurred prior to January 2023 filed the same day, Paxton’s team argues that if not dismissed, the articles of impeachment previously mentioned should be excluded from the trial:
“None of the allegations that occurred prior to January 2023 and make up nineteen of the Articles of Impeachment can or should be considered by this Court. The law requires that all such evidence be excluded.”
Tony Buzbee, the attorney leading Paxton’s defense, stated in the motion that the impeachment was taken up because his client’s political opponents had been unable to defeat him at the polls.
There was no smoking gun, there is no smoking gun; indeed, there is no persuasive proof of any wrongdoing – only conjecture and speculation. Indeed, after a careful review of what the House Managers call their “evidence,” it is clear that the House’s strategy was to shoot first and ask questions later.
Buzzbe has previously called the articles “hopelessly vague.”
As of publishing, the House impeachment managers have not responded to the motion.
The remaining charge, No. 8, deals with the proposed settlement with former staff members from the Office of the Attorney General.
Barring any delays, the Senate trial is slated to begin September 5.