The state bar’s investigation was first reported by the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Paxton, already troubled by securities fraud charges and accusations by several former employees of abusing his office to aid a political donor, has less than 30 days to respond to the grievance. Then, an investigation is conducted by the state bar to determine whether to proceed with litigation, a months-long process that includes discovery, pretrial motions and a trial.
Claire Reynolds, an attorney and representative for the bar, said the agency is required to keep disciplinary matters confidential unless they result in public sanctions or a court action.
Paxton’s office did not respond to questions from The Post. On Thursday, the attorney general, in an interview with a conservative talk show, blamed the bar for being “political” and said it was “more liars than lawyers.”
He suggested the complaint filed by Kevin Moran, president of the Galveston Island Democrats and a retired Houston Chronicle reporter, was a maneuver to help Moran’s friend, former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski, a Democrat running for attorney general.
Moran denied the grievance filed in December had anything to do with Jaworski, saying he was motivated to reach out to the bar after reading news of Paxton’s long-shot bid to overturn the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states won by President Biden.
Moran, who provided the complaint and letters from the bar and Board of Disciplinary Appeals to The Post, argues Paxton’s legal fight for Trump’s win was a waste of taxpayer’s money.
“Ken Paxton did not file this lawsuit in good faith by any stretch of the imagination,” he said in an interview. “He couldn’t have possibly believed what he was saying was true.”
Moran points to the majority opinion of legal experts who derided the bid by Paxton to subvert Biden’s win as audacious and implausible.
Democratic officials quoted in Moran’s complaint said at the time that the lawsuit was meritless. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) called the case an “embarrassment.”
“The Supreme Court will quickly reject this,” Kaul told WTMJ-AM in December, days before the high court thwarted Paxton’s case.
Although the consensus was that the suit’s legal argument was deeply flawed, Bruce Green, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law, said it is not an ethical violation to bring a losing case.
“It’s a fine line between a really bad, losing filing and frivolous one,” Green said in an interview.
Green said the disciplinary agency could probe if Paxton’s lawsuit was spurred by good faith or political bias.
Bar associations, which typically investigate lawyers’ misconduct that harms clients, rather than political agendas, were also asked to strip Trump’s lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell of their legal licenses in Michigan and New York following post-election lawsuits rejected by judges across the political spectrum. Paxton is the most powerful attorney who lobbied for Trump to possibly face professional repercussions.
Paxton, a staunch Trump supporter, is competing against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush for the former president’s endorsement in the primary for attorney general in 2022.
On the campaign trail, Bush criticized Paxton’s timing of the lawsuit challenging the results after the election, calling it “a little too little too late.”
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