On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to end the $2,000 limit for special prosecutors’ fees in a criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The Houston Chronicle reported in November that those prosecutors, who represent the state of Texas, could walk away from the case if those limits stay in place.
Collin County, where the case originated, has been billed for more than half a million dollars in legals fees since 2015. The county has paid about $200,000 to special prosecutors so far, but it contested the rest of the bill in court, which led to the decision to cap their pretrial fees last fall.
In 2015, Paxton was accused of promoting a tech company to investigators while failing to disclose he was receiving stock in return. After being indicted on charges of securities fraud, Paxton has claimed the 100,000 shares he received were a gift, not a sales commission.
Taylor Goldenstein is an Austin bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle, and says a trial judge first approved the lawyers to work at $300 an hour, but local officials wanted to limit prosecutor fees to a smaller rate.
“The Collin County commissioners came back and said they didn’t think [the rate] was reasonable,” Goldenstein says. “They wanted them to be paid at their set fee schedule, which would cap their pretrial work at a much, much smaller rate.”
Goldenstein says the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals originally imposed the $2,000 limit in November, and the court did not provide an explanation for its denial Wednesday. Goldenstein says the lawyers had previously threatened to drop the case if the payment limitations were not removed at the hearing.
“The side issue of prosecutor pay has been holding up the case since late 2017,” Goldenstein says. “So, if they decide to drop the case for any reason, we’ll be in limbo waiting for a judge to appoint new lawyers.”
Aside from prosecutor payments, Goldenstein says other issues have held up Paxton’s trial, including a legal fight about where the trial should be held.
“It’s an issue that’s been hanging over the attorney general’s head,” Goldenstein says. “This is one of many side issues delaying the case. We’ll see what happens with the lawyers to see when this might ever actually go to trial.”
Written by Hayden Baggett.