(The Center Square) – After seven days of hearing from witnesses, the House rested its case in the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday afternoon. Paxton’s attorneys filed a motion challenging the insufficiency of evidence. The House Managers filed a motion to amend the Senate rules to bar Paxton from ever holding office again.
The House was required by Senate Rule 25 to present a case with a “burden of proof… beyond a reasonable doubt” and present evidence to support the allegations filed in the articles of impeachment. Paxton’s attorneys argue they didn’t do that and filed a motion for a directed verdict on each of the articles of impeachment.
Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee told Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who’s presiding over the trial, that they’d filed the motion late Wednesday afternoon.
In response, Patrick said, “Pursuant to the rules adopted by the Senate, there’s a motion for a directed verdict … which must be submitted for a vote to members of the court.” The motion is “a challenge to the insufficiency of the evidence. Therefore, these motions will go to the senators.”
The Senate rules require a majority of the senators, 16, to grant a motion. If a majority isn’t reached, the motion fails.
Prior to Buzbee’s motion, the House called its last witness and rested its case Wednesday afternoon. House lead attorney Dusty Hardin said the House rested its case after direct examination of his last witness was finished but did so without allowing Paxton’s attorneys to cross-examine. It’s unclear if this was an oversight or intentional. Buzbee said he reserved the right to recall the witness.
After resting the House Manager’s case, Hardin immediately filed a motion to amend the Senate Rules on their behalf. The Senate deliberated on the rules for weeks and announced them on June 21, 2023. The House Managers were not involved in the Senate rule-making process. They asked for the rules to be changed three months after they were adopted and before closing arguments were made and the senators voted.
Their motion asks the Senate to amend Rules 27 and 30(a), which govern how the court deliberates after final arguments are made and the process for any article receiving a conviction, respectively. According to the Senate rules, if any article of impeachment is sustained and Paxton is convicted, he is to be removed from office. However, the rules don’t automatically require that he be prevented from holding office in Texas in the future.
The House Managers not only want Paxton removed from office, but they also want him to be disqualified from ever holding office in the state of Texas again, as Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, has repeatedly argued.
Their motion argues the Senate rules are inconsistent with the Texas Constitution, which Hardin argues requires “that a state official who is convicted of committing impeachable offenses be both removed and disqualified from holding future office.” The motion states that “the plain language of the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to not only remove, but also disqualify a state official from holding future office for committing impeachable conduct.”
Hardin argues in the motion that not preventing Paxton from holding office again would “frustrate” the impeachment process. The motion also proposes rewritten versions of Senate Rules 27 and 30(a).
In response, Paxton’s attorneys also filed a motion arguing Hardin’s motion “should be either denied outright or deferred until after a vote on Attorney General Paxton’s innocence.”
Should the Senate vote to acquit Paxton later this week or early next week, Paxton’s attorneys argue, the acquittal “will moot this late-breaking question raised by the House and will make any consideration of this motion unnecessary.”
“As the House itself points out,” they continue, “every precedent weighs against the House’s position. Modifying 100 years of precedent on the fly and at the last minute would not respect the gravity of precedent—or this process.”
They also argue the House is “wrong on the merits in their misreading of the Constitution.”
Patrick said an answer would be reached on the motions on Thursday morning, and the senators would vote on them.
As of Wednesday evening, Paxton’s motion for a directed verdict was not yet posted on the Senate Court of Impeachment website. Both of the motions regarding changing the rules were.