After being warned that their preliminary budget violated state law, Collin County Commissioners acted quickly on Tuesday to reduce their proposed expenditures for a prosecution of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The commissioners court had initially been asked to consider spending $2 million to prosecute Paxton on highly-questionable and politically motivated felony securities indictments, and had already reduced the proposed budget to $285,000 after an outcry by the public. But attorneys for Collin County resident Jeffory Blackard pointed out in a letter Monday that state law greatly restricts the amount counties can spend on appointed prosecutors, fixing the totals to the amount allotted for indigent defense.
Acknowledging the legitimacy of the legal restrictions pointed out in the letter, Collin County Judge Keith Self proposed reducing the budget for the prosecution to $33,000. Self pledged to work with Judge George Gallagher to finalize a budget for the case.
The decreased budget will go to pay Houston attorneys Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice, who have been appointed as attorneys pro tem in the Paxton case.
After explaining the restrictions the law puts on funding for attorneys pro-tem (private attorneys who take the place of a district attorney in a case) the attorneys for Blackard explained the reason for the law:
“The reason for this is simple: the statutes intend that counties rely on district attorneys and state attorneys—not private attorneys—as a preferred method to place prosecutions in the trust of democratically accountable elected officials.”
If Collin County and Judge Gallagher do not bring their budget for the prosecution into compliance with state law, they could risk the expenditure of additional fees defending a lawsuit. The attorneys for Blackard expressed that they hope to avoid litigation, but are willing to file suit if a budget is adopted that does not comply with state law.