Senate Impeachment Trial Against AG Paxton Begins

This Tuesday, the long-awaited trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton began in the Texas Senate. Toward the end of the regular Legislature’s session, the Republican-controlled Texas House voted to impeach Paxton, a fellow Republican, after an investigation that was spurred by the Office of the Attorney General’s request to have Texas taxpayers foot the bill in a whistle-blowing case brought on by the FBI.

In impeachment proceedings, the House acts as the grand jury, and 121 of the 149 voted to impeach Paxton, with only 23 representatives, all Republicans, voting against impeachment. This vote temporarily removed Paxton from office and sent his case to the Senate, where members of that body now act as a jury and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick acts as a judge in Paxton’s trial. 

If two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of impeachment on any of the 20 articles, Paxton will be removed from office. Despite the overwhelming vote to impeach in the House, analysis suggests that a two-thirds vote might be a more difficult task in the Texas Senate, where Republican legislators are generally more in line with Paxton’s brand of far-right conservatism.

Texas AFT covered the Texas House General Investigating Committee’s findings and the trial rules approved by the Texas Senate in previous Hotline articles.

The trial in the Senate began Tuesday with Paxton’s legal team proposing a variety of pretrial motions, many of which would have dismissed each of the proposed 20 articles of impeachment. Every one of Paxton’s pretrial motions were voted down, with most motions receiving more than two-thirds of votes in opposition to Paxton.

Paxton appeared in person for the pretrial motions but left the Senate chamber after they were denied. Patrick has stated that Paxton will not be required to take the stand as a witness.

While Paxton was not present during the trial, his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), was present. According to the trial rules, Sen. Paxton is not allowed to vote on matters of impeachment, but her presence does raise the threshold of required impeachment votes to 21.

Over the first few days of the trial, the prosecuting attorneys, which were handpicked by the Texas House Board of Managers handling Paxton’s case, brought several witnesses to the stand to testify against Paxton, including three former employees of the Office of the Attorney General who were handpicked by Paxton himself. 

Analysts have speculated that the Paxton trial likely will last two to three weeks or possibly longer. While there are specific time limits for the prosecution and defense to present their cases, the trial has so far been bogged down by motions and objections presented by Paxton’s attorneys. 

The length of Paxton’s trial is consequential to the fate of public education in Texas. There is broad speculation that a special legislative session will be called by the governor to address public school funding and private school vouchers as soon as the Paxton trial has concluded.