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State bar complaint against Attorney General Ken Paxton to proceed after key deadline passes

Attorney General Ken Paxton walks onto the stage at a Trump rally in Conroe on Jan. 29, 2022.
Jordan Vonderhaar
The Texas Tribune
Attorney General Ken Paxton walks onto the stage at a Trump rally in Conroe on Jan. 29, 2022.

Paxton is accused of professional misconduct for suing to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

A Texas State Bar complaint is moving forward, accusing Attorney General Ken Paxton of professional misconduct when he sued to overturn 2020 presidential election results in four battleground states.

Sunday was the deadline for the State Bar of Texas to dismiss its complaint, according to Jim Harrington, a civil rights attorney and one of the 16 lawyers who have brought the complaint along with the nonprofit group Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

The group filed the complaint last year with the bar — which is responsible for the licensing of attorneys in Texas — after Paxton’s lawsuit challenging election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2020. Election officials have said claims by former President Donald Trump about election fraud are baseless.

The high court ruled the state of Texas had not proven why it had standing in the case.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court wrote in 2020.

News of the case proceeding was dismissed by the attorney general.

Paxton claimed the timing was politically motivated, coming as it did on the first week of his campaign against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The two face a May 24 runoff for the Republican nomination in the attorney general’s race after neither candidate had a majority of votes in the March 1 primary.

“But I’m not worried,” Paxton said in a statement. “I take their partisan attacks as a mark I’m doing the right thing.”

The state bar complaint called out Paxton for his lack of evidence of voting fraud in the four states whose election results he was challenging. Paxton must now decide in 20 days either to participate in a trial by jury in Travis County or an internal investigatory and evidentiary hearing by the state bar, according to Harrington.

“They could take away his license,” Harrington said. “They could suspend him, they could reprimand him, whatever. It's up to them, what they want to do and how bad they think the conduct was.”

In a separate move, the State Bar of Texas has filed a disciplinary action against Sidney Powell of Dallas, an attorney for former President Donald Trump. The March 1 filing in Dallas County accuses Powell of misconduct for filing a lawsuit speculating that fraud was committed in the 2020 presidential election.

Powell did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.