Travis County judge denies Paxton request to end whistleblower lawsuit

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion to halt his deposition next month in the ongoing whistleblower case against the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and to expedite a judgment has been denied by a Travis County judge.

In a statement from the office, the OAG confirmed its Tuesday motion had been denied. That motion, had it been granted, would have vacated Judge Jan Soifer’s Friday order setting deposition dates in February for Paxton and three top aides: First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster, Chief of Staff Lesley French Henneke, and Senior Advisor Michelle Smith.

That deposition order followed Paxton and the OAG’s maneuver to essentially concede the case, dropping its fight against the allegations in order to end the proceedings — which was denied.

“By [denying the Friday motion], the court is recklessly disregarding legal precedent, abusing the litigation system, and displaying shocking bias in an apparent effort to prolong this political charade and interfere with the day-to-day business of the Texas Attorney General’s office,” the OAG’s statement read.

“With this decision, this Travis County court has escalated its troubling pattern of behaving as a political actor instead of an impartial arbiter of disputed cases. This is not this judge’s first activist and politically-motivated decision contrary to the public interest.”

Soifer, who first won election to the 345th District Court in 2016, was once the Travis County Democratic Party chair — a fact the OAG criticized in its statement, adding, “It is not possible for the Attorney General, his agency, or his staff to expect a fair trial.”

The ongoing whistleblower case — which first began with allegations in 2020 from top OAG aides of misconduct and abuse of office by Paxton in connection with real estate developer Nate Paul — now is in this odd no-man’s-land where the defendant is no longer explicitly defending himself, yet the plaintiffs and judge press on.

Tom Nesbitt, attorney for whistleblower Blake Brickman, said “this is Ken Paxton’s latest pathetic attempt to avoid his court-ordered deposition and delay the truth from coming out. Of course we will oppose it and continue to push for full transparency and accountability.”

After Paxton was acquitted on 16 impeachment charges back in September, the all-GOP Texas Supreme Court greenlit the resumption of the dormant case against the OAG. The $3.3 million settlement with conditions struck in early 2023 fell apart once the Texas House balked at paying the sum on the OAG’s behalf, following unanswered requests to Paxton to testify on the issue in front of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

The motion, in which the OAG essentially pleaded no contest to the case, also asked the judge to enforce that previously agreed-to settlement — for which the Legislature has still not approved the appropriation — and was summarily denied by Soifer.

Paxton’s deposition in the case is set for February 1, followed by the three aides in sequential days.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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