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Texas AG Ken Paxton bans staff lawyers from speaking at state bar events

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 26.
Eric Lee
The Texas Tribune
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 26.

The bar, which licenses lawyers and offers training sessions, is suing Paxton in an attempt to sanction him for trying block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is escalating his feud with the State Bar of Texas by banning his office’s lawyers from speaking at any events organized by the bar.

Paxton’s office also will not pay for any attorneys to attend bar-sponsored events, according to an internal email obtained by The Texas Tribune.

The state bar is suing Paxton over his 2020 lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in four battleground states. Paxton has denounced the lawsuit, which alleges professional misconduct, as political harassment.

The internal email — sent Monday by Shawn Cowles, Paxton’s deputy attorney general for civil litigation — references the lawsuit, calling it “just the latest instance in the Bar’s ongoing evolution into a partisan advocacy group.”

“Let’s be clear: these are politically motivated attacks that violate separation-of-powers principles and offend our profession’s values of civil disagreement and diversity of thought,” Cowles wrote.

The new office policies are effective immediately.

A disciplinary committee for the state bar filed the lawsuit against Paxton in May, seeking to sanction him over his high-profile challenge to the 2020 election results, which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear. The professional misconduct lawsuit alleges that Paxton misrepresented that he had uncovered substantial evidence of voter fraud when he tried to block Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin from casting decisive Electoral College votes that handed Joe Biden his victory over Donald Trump.

Paxton’s efforts, the state bar wrote in its lawsuit, “were not supported by any charge, indictment, judicial finding, and/or credible or admissible evidence, and failed to disclose to the Court that some of his representations and allegations had already been adjudicated and/or dismissed in a court of law.”

The state bar has separately sued Paxton’s first assistant attorney general, Brent Webster, over the 2020 election lawsuit.

Paxton has publicly bashed the lawsuits as politically motivated, and late last month, he asked a a district court in Collin County to dismiss the suit against him. Paxton has gotten back-up from fellow statewide Republican officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The state bar is an agency of the judiciary that licenses lawyers to practice in Texas and hosts regular training and networking events around the state.

The policy that Paxton’s office announced Monday is not the first strike it has aimed at the organization outside the courtroom.

Earlier in May, after Paxton got word that the star bar would sue him, he announced an investigation in to the Texas Bar Foundation for “facilitating mass influx of illegal aliens” through its donations to various advocacy groups. The foundation raises money to provide legal education and services, and it is separate from the state bar, which is an administrative arm of the Texas Supreme Court.

Paxton is running for a third term in November after easily winning a primary runoff in May against Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The Democratic nominee is Rochelle Garza, a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.