Service in Texas AG's office doesn't protect top assistant from ethics complaint, appeals court says
Texas First Assistant Attorney General Brent Edward Webster participates in a discussion during the America First Policy Institute’s America First Agenda Summit in July 2022. An ethics lawsuit revived by the Texas Court of Appeals has claimed that Webster made dishonest assertions in a failed U.S. Supreme Court suit claiming that voting machines had switched votes in the 2020 election. Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via the Associated Press.
The Texas Court of Appeals has revived an ethics complaint filed against the top assistant for suspended Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is facing his own ethics troubles.
Texas First Assistant Attorney General Brent Edward Webster must face an ethics lawsuit filed by the State Bar of Texas, the appeals court said in a July 13 opinion.
The ethics suit claims that Webster made dishonest assertions in a failed U.S. Supreme Court suit claiming that voting machines had switched votes in the 2020 election.
Lawyers facing ethics allegations in Texas have a choice of having their cases heard by a grievance committee panel or by a district court, with or without a jury, the appeals court explains. Webster opted for district court proceedings.
A trial judge then tossed the case, concluding that the separation of powers doctrine left him without jurisdiction over the disciplinary complaint. Webster defended that decision on appeal, arguing that the state attorney general has broad power in civil litigation, and disciplinary proceedings pose a threat to that power.
The appeals court disagreed and said the trial judge erred by dismissing the case.
“Webster is not exempt from the judiciary’s constitutional obligation to regulate the practice of Texas attorneys simply because he serves in the attorney general’s office,” the appeals court said.
The Texas attorney general’s office said it would appeal the appellate decision in an email to Courthouse News Service.
The case is Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Webster.
Webster is the top assistant to Paxton, who was suspended from office pending an impeachment trial for allegedly misusing his office to benefit a developer who contributed to his campaign. Paxton is also accused of firing seven whistleblowers in his office.
Paxton is also facing an ethics complaint for alleged dishonest statements in the Supreme Court election case. Paxton is appealing a decision that refused to toss the ethics complaint.
ABAJournal.com: “State investigators accuse Texas AG of abuse of office in public hearing”