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Paxton prosecutors’ bill hits $575,000

By Jon Cassidy

The court-appointed prosecutors in the Ken Paxton case have submitted new invoices that bring their compensation to date to $575,105.99.

The new batch of invoices from Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice and Nicole DeBorde covers the last year, with a total of $205,191.24 in new billing. Collin County taxpayers have already paid them $369,914.75.

The Collin County Commissioners Court had not yet received the invoices as of Thursday afternoon, but the latest tab is sure to set off a debate. In October, the commissioners voted 5-0 in support of a resolution to challenge excessive court-ordered payments for attorneys.

State law says that a court-appointed prosecutor “shall receive compensation” in the “same amount and manner” under a county fee schedule as a court-appointed lawyer defending a homeless person.

That’s not much in this case: $1,000 for pretrial work, $1,000 a day for trial, with a possible $1,000 bump if a judge deems it appropriate.

Yet visiting judge George Gallagher has ordered a $300-an-hour rate for the three attorneys prosecuting Paxton, without ever explaining what unusual circumstances might justify the extravagance.

Prosecutors from a neighboring county could have been brought in for free, although it’s unclear whether any professional prosecutors would have been willing to test out Wice and Schaffer’s novel theory of securities fraud.

The bills have become a contentious issue in Collin County, particularly since October, when a federal judge dismissed a civil case against Paxton based on the same set of facts.

Also, Collin County Judge Keith Self, who has been the deciding vote on several Paxton-related matters, may be facing the voters again soon. U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson announced this week he will retire at the end of his current term in 2018, and county politicos say the race to succeed him will come down to Self and state Sen. Van Taylor, a favorite of conservatives.

Schaffer, meanwhile, has been recently called an “unindicted co-conspirator” in an organized crime case against the Bandidos motorcycle club.

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