The long and drawn-out political prosecution against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton received yet another blow on Wednesday morning and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a rehearing over last years’ decision over payment of the appointed prosecutors.
In a ruling in November, the Court upheld a previous ruling of the Dallas Court of Appeals concluding that the hourly rate charged by appointed prosecutors on the case runs afoul of state law. The law requires that such compensation is dispensed on either a fixed-rate basis or within reasonable minimum and maximum hourly rates matching the amounts paid to court-appointed defense attorneys.
The prosecution soon motioned for a rehearing of the case. With little fanfare, the Court denied that motion on Wednesday morning.
Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice, two private defense attorneys from Houston, were appointed by Judge Scott Becker to prosecute Paxton after the Collin County district attorney recused himself due to his personal relationship with the attorney general. In a backroom deal, Becker agreed to pay the pair an uncapped fee of $300 per hour for their “services.”
This rate resulted in a massive bill that had reached nearly $600,000 in 2016 alone.
After a series of legal setbacks, and federal case dismissals, made it clear Paxton had not violated the law, Collin County taxpayers began to question whether the prosecutors were carrying forward on the case solely to rack up legal fees for themselves. If the case had gone to trial at the $300 per hour rate, Wice and Schaffer could have expected to earn upward of $1 million.
Schaffer was also found to have charged taxpayers for work supposedly performed while on six vacations and a weekend getaway, from Marrakesh to Myanmar.
Collin County refused to pay the prosecutors’ latest bill, resulting in a series of appeals that eventually reached the state’s highest appellate court for criminal law matters.
Meanwhile, while Paxton has been victorious in the face of the political prosecution, having won re-election for four more years as the state’s leading attorney, Judge Becker has been thrown out by Collin County voters, failing to even make the Republican primary runoff for his position on the 219th District Court.
Schaffer and Wice must now decide whether they will end their involvement in the political prosecution of Paxton or continue on with less compensation.