(The Center Square) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attorneys filed a motion Monday with the state Senate requesting it to throw out all but one article of impeachment against him, claiming 19 of the 20 articles violate the “prior-term doctrine” established in Texas law.
Monday’s filing comes after his attorneys previously requested the Senate quash the articles and require the House to provide a bill of particulars, or actual charge of crimes the House alleges Paxton committed, which aren’t listed in the articles of impeachment. They also asked the Senate to ban three Democratic senators as jurors because of claims they’ve already decided Paxton is guilty, including one senator who appears to have violated a July 17 gag order imposed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
The 46-page motion requests the Senate dismiss 19 articles: I-VII and IX-XX based on the prior-term doctrine. The prior-term doctrine prevents conviction or removal of an impeached official when the facts underlying the allegations occurred “if at all, before the officer’s most recent election, and those allegations were public before voters cast their ballots,” the motion states.
With one exception, the articles “allege nothing that Texas voters have not heard from the Attorney General’s political opponents for years,” which occurred before Paxton was re-elected to his third term last November, the motion states. The “prior-term doctrine” is firmly rooted in Texas law, Texas Supreme Court decisions, and Texas impeachment precedents, Paxton’s attorneys argue.
“The alleged acts underlying nineteen of the articles took place before the Attorney General’s most recent election and were highly publicized. Under the prior-term doctrine, they therefore cannot factually or legally form the basis for the Attorney General’s removal. And by the House admission, they did not,” the attorneys argue, pointing to a House General Investigating Committee memorandum dated May 26, 2023, which laid out their reasoning for impeaching Paxton.
Articles I-VII and IX through XX should be dismissed, they argue, pursuant to Texas law and Senate Rules 5(b), 15(b), 16, and 26. The Senate “has the sole discretion to approve the dismissal of these Articles pretrial,” they point out.
Paxton’s attorneys also filed a second motion requesting the Senate exclude evidence of any alleged conduct that occurred prior to January 2023, citing the same “prior-term doctrine.”
One of the House managers, Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, who also appears to have violated the July 17 gag order, tweeted July 25 that the doctrine isn’t law and fell under “non constitutional removal proceedings.”
Paxton’s attorneys brought up Cain’s tweet in the motion, stating the doctrine isn’t limited to removals outside the constitutional impeachment process; “This Court has consistently applied the prior-term doctrine to constitutional officials impeached during constitutional processes.”
Because the prior-term doctrine applies, his attorneys argue 19 articles must be dismissed.
Lead attorney Tony Buzbee highlighted key arguments in the motion in a statement issued on Monday, saying, “Unable to defeat the Attorney General at the polls, the architects of the present impeachment caused the House to quickly file and pass twenty Articles of Impeachment – in a mere three days. The allegations making up the Articles contain unsupported, vague, and irrelevant assertions of non-impeachable conduct.
“The evidence the House Managers have gathered is 100 times less than what has been proclaimed. Indeed, now that the House Managers have produced more than fifty boxes of documents, there is little to no evidence whatsoever that supports their baseless allegations of wrongdoing, much less evidence that can support impeachment of the duly elected Attorney General of the State of Texas.”
The motion points to documents they requested and received, which were “mostly irrelevant to the Articles being brought against the Attorney General.” It also points out that all 15 witnesses mentioned in the GIC investigation were never placed under oath nor were any of the investigators who appeared before the GIC in May, forming the basis for the impeachment articles.
“But it gets worse,” the motion states. “In the unsworn witness statements, the witnesses make no effort to limit what they testify about to their personal knowledge, that is, what they actually saw, or what they actually heard, but rather are encouraged to freely speculate and provide their unsupported thoughts and opinions about the Attorney General and what ‘might’ have potentially occurred.”
Paxton’s attorneys also argue, “Texas voters elected Attorney General Paxton to office three consecutive times – most recently mere months before the House secretly began crafting these Articles of Impeachment.”
The House managers have yet to file their reply with the Senate. They are prevented from responding to questions due to the gag order. Pretrial motions are due August 5 with rebuttals due August 15. The trial is set to begin Sept. 5.