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Dysfunction and Politics in the Texas AG’s Office


The Texas Attorney General’s flubbed a prosecution against six sex traffickers, because they lost contact with the victim. The high profile prosecutions was known as “Operation Fallen Angle.” In the small town of Gatesville, Texas, in central Texas, this prosecution was a big deal. Six persons accused of trading crystal methamphetamine for sex are now free. The AG’s office committed a grave prosecutorial error. It lost lost contact with their key witness. The local Republican District Attorney said the system is “absolutely broken. You don’t do it this way.”

The AG’s office is in disarray. Turnover is high. The office routinely pushes its Assistant AG’s to engage in conservative politics. One attorney resigned after warning the office of growing discrimination against LGBTQ employees. One Assistant AG – a long-time prosecutor – quit in January after he was pressured to withhold evidence in a murder case. This past August, the division in charge of sex trafficking cases had a 40% vacancy rate. Assistant AG’s are quitting due to concern over ethics and overt politics. The office pressed its employees to attend two showings of the controversial film, 2000 Mules.

Meanwhile, AG Paxton is filing frivolous lawsuits against the federal government. He has filed 11 immigration related lawsuits against the federal government. In 2022, AG Paxton filed a friend of the court brief in the appeal regarding the seizure of documents from Mar-a-Lago. But, that brief makes no actual legal argument. It essentially argus that the Biden administration cannot be trusted.

And, in 2021, AG Paxton filed a frivolous lawsuit over the 2020 election. That lawsuit has led to the Texas Bar Association investigating Paxton’s law license. Too, when the AG files these weak lawsuits against the federal government, he files them in out-of-the-way, but favorable courts, such as Victoria, Lubbock and Amarillo. The blatant judge-shopping just looks bad.

Child Pornography Film

This tumult in employee retention follows eight top Assistant AG”s all resigning in 2020 over allegations that Paxton was violating ethical constraints and various laws. After those top aides left, Paxton hired one lawyer and one non-lawyer for his senior staff who are connected to top donors to Paxton’s legal defense fund. The non-lawyer, Tom Kelly Gleason, a former ice cream company owner whose father gave $50,000 to the Paxton legal defense fund, showed a child pornography film as a work presentation at the AG’s office. The film caused the meeting to break-up early. Paxton’s top aide, Brent Webster, then told staff not to discuss the film.

High Turnover

The number of filled Assistant AG positions is down 25% from two years ago. The financial crimes and white collar division saw half its positions cut. It was then merged into another division. This for an AG’s office that formerly rarely saw more than two or three attorney vacancies at any given time.

One Assistant AG left saying top staff was pressuring the Assistant AG’s to make political issues a higher priority. Several employees attested that as the March election primary approached, a deputy for criminal cases convened a meeting to ask about cases that could help Paxton in his re-election bid. For more information, see the AP news report here.

Other Attorneys General

Paxton has amplified a tradition started by his predecessor, Greg Abbott of politicizing the AG’s office. When Abbot was the Attorney General he used to brag that he goes to work, he sues the federal government and then goes home. See my prior post about former AG Abbott here. Compare Paxton and Abbott to former AG Jim Mattox. Mattox served as Texas Attorney General in the 1980’s. He sued oil companies who shortchanged Texas taxpayers on royalty payments, sued car dealers who rolled back odometers, close nursing homes, and challenged Quaker Oats, and car manufacturers on the accuracy of their advertising. Two former AG’s benefited themselves and their political standing, while the third AG benefited average Texans.

 

 



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