Appeals court allows whistleblower lawsuit against Texas AG to move forward


A Texas state appeals court on Thursday cleared the way for a whistleblower lawsuit against state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to proceed, The Texas Tribune reported.

The 3rd Court of Appeals in Texas reportedly said in its decision that the Texas Whistleblower Act applies to Paxton and that former employees from the state attorney general’s office are covered under it.

Paxton’s lawyers had previously argued that he is not a public employee but an elected official, meaning that the Whistleblower Act did not apply to him.

Noting that Texas is an employment-at-will state, the judges said in their ruling that “the Texas Whistleblower Act provides an exception to that general rule—a government employer may not fire an employee who makes a good-faith report of illegal conduct because he made the report.”

“Thus, although loyalty and confidence are important considerations in employment matters, the Act provides that a State employer cannot fire an employee because he reports illegal conduct by the employer, even when it is that act of reporting that causes the employer to lose confidence or feel the employee lacks loyalty,” the judges continued. 

Four former officials from Paxton’s office filed a lawsuit last year after they and four other former aides alleged that he had tampered with government documents, committed bribery and hired a woman with whom he was having an affair, according to the Texas Tribune. Some of the former officials are seeking their positions back after being pressured to leave the office or resign, as well as missed compensation.

In August, Paxton was cleared of abusing his office or committing bribery by his own office. The report said that the whistleblower's allegations were "either factually incorrect or legally deficient."

“The 3rd COA followed establish law and the plain language of the Whistleblower Statute in rejecting the OAG’s outlandish arguments that would undermine the rule of law,” Carlos Soltero, a lawyer representing one of the former officials suing, David Maxwell, said in a statement.

“This opinion reaffirms that Texas law protects public servants who complain about violations of the law by high-level government officials like the Attorney General. As we have said from the beginning, no one is above the law, not even Ken Paxton.”

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