Statement on the Impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Susan Fletcher Collin County Commissioner Precinct 1
I am profoundly shocked and saddened to witness the impeachment of our Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. While I do realize that this action is supposed to function like a grand jury referring a case for an actual trial, I believe there are several fundamental problems with how this took place. Take note, if this is allowed to continue, it could happen to anyone, for any reason, valid or not. Especially when you’re not even allowed to present exculpatory evidence and defend yourself.
Make no mistake. I’m speaking up because the voice of the people was silenced in such a way that it didn’t even follow the law. My opposition is all about DUE PROCESS and the RULE OF LAW. As I’ve stated before, it’s not about the defendant, it’s about defending the people, and the very fabric of our Republic.
I believe this process has been extremely rushed, one-sided, and the utter lack of transparency with the public by the General Investigating Committee is simply stunning. Why is that important? Because it was the public that just elected him. As members of the public, we don’t know the validity of much of what has been alleged, because the witnesses were never sworn in, examined or cross-examined, and none of the allegations used against General Paxton have ever been proven in a court of law. It is a fundamental principle that as Americans, we are all considered innocent UNLESS (not “until”) we are proven guilty in a court of law. (Saying “until” presumes that guilt will be assigned eventually, and that is wrong thinking.). At a minimum, there was no reason to take such swift, drastic action and immediately go to DEFCON 1, throwing the state into crisis. Under all circumstances, no matter who is in power, this should be a methodical and fair process, with checks and balances. Evidence and testimony should only be admitted from sworn witnesses, or facts that are fully established and verified, not just allegations. The defendant’s counsel should be allowed to refute testimony, and have an impartial judge rule on whether it is admissible. Instead, it was an opportunistic rush to judgment, announced this past week with articles presented and heard within 48 hours. Everything else was done in secret. Republicans and Democrats alike should be concerned with how this was handled.
KEY POINT: I vehemently take issue with a particular statute in the Government Code Sec. 665.081 which clearly states that impeachment shall NOT occur for any acts which may have been committed prior to taking office. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.665.htm#:~:text=OTHER%20REMOVAL%20PROVISIONS-,Sec.,the%20officer’s%20election%20to%20office. Clearly, any potential offense prior to taking office is to be handled by the Criminal Courts, not the Legislature. But that was not the case here. General Paxton was literally just sworn in to office for his third term in January 2023. The allegations contained within the articles are outside of the time window of allowable grievances; and furthermore, they were already considered by the voters, and General Paxton was still elected by a wide margin. Therefore, back to the statute, this isn’t about defending General Paxton, but defending the voters who elected him and following the law.
I was told by several officials that none of this would have happened if General Paxton hadn’t pursued the $3.3m settlement. That makes zero sense. Then why are there 20 articles, many unrelated to the $3.3m, going back years? (Read the statute above, again) Why not pursue some kind of settlement agreement instead of rushing immediately to the gallows of impeachment? There was no attempt to find a solution, only to terminate and go against the will of the electorate, and the majority of Texans who had already spoken.
Elected officials should always be held accountable to following the law, and I do fully understand the importance of that. My point is that procedures must also be conducted fairly and lawfully. Especially when it is something as serious and solemn as removing someone from office. Personally, for the reasons stated above, I just don’t believe that’s what happened here, and furthermore, I certainly don’t believe our House members had nearly enough time to consider the complexity and evidence in this case. This sets up a dangerous precedent for the future, no matter who is in office. If the will of the electorate can be so easily usurped, I fear for our blessed, fragile Republic.