State Bar Ethics Grievance Filed Against Republican Attorney General Candidate Ken Paxton

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This week, a grievance was filed with the State Bar of Texas against State Senator Ken Paxton.

Paxton already faces a criminal complaint for soliciting clients while failing to register as an investment advisor, violating the Texas Securities Act–a law he voted for as a state Legislator. The current State Bar grievance comes from the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability (TCLA). They  allege that Paxton,  “committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”

If the State Bar finds that Paxton did violate state ethics rules, Paxton could face serious punishment, including being disbarred.

Ken Paxton has already admitted to acting as an unregistered investment advisor, and paid a fine to the Texas State Securities Board. In doing so, he essentially admitted to facts that clearly constitute a felony. Having a felon who cheats clients as Attorney General is clearly the wrong choice for Texas.

The grievance was filed by the TCLA's Acting Executive Director, Erica Gammill. In a statement, TCLA laid out Paxton's crimes pretty clearly:

    Mr. Paxton has recently acknowledged under oath that he committed several violations of the Texas Securities Act by acting as a paid investment adviser representative for Mowery Capital Management, LLC (“MCM”) without registering with the Texas Securities Commission. On May 2, 2014, Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan signed a Disciplinary Order against Mr. Paxton. The Disciplinary Order found that Mr. Paxton had violated Section 12.B of the Texas Securities Act by acting as a paid investment adviser representative for MCM without registering with the Texas Securities Commission. Mr. Paxton admitted to this illegal and unethical conduct by signing a sworn acknowledgement. By failing to register as required by the Texas Securities Act, Mr. Paxton also apparently committed a third-degree felony under Section 29.I of the Texas Securities Act. Thus, by his own admission, Mr. Paxton has committed a crime under Texas law-specifically, a third degree felony.

TCLA also pointed out that Paxton was recently sued by a former client, Teri Goettsche, for failing to disclose that he was taking kickbacks from MCM for referring Goettsche and her husband to MCM.

TCLA is alleging that Paxton violated several sections of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct that govern the state's attorneys. These include:

    Disciplinary Rule 1.06 – which prohibits conflicts of interest, including conflicts arising from a lawyer's personal interests.

    Disciplinary Rule 1.08(a) – which prohibits a lawyer from entering a business transaction with a client unless the terms are fair and reasonable to the client and other conditions are met.

    Disciplinary Rule 8.04(a)(2) – which prohibits a lawyer from committing a serious crime or any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness in other respects.

    Disciplinary Rule 8.04(a)(3) – which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct that involves dishonesty, deceit, misrepresentation or fraud.

When a grievance is filed with the State Bar, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (CDC) then initiates a review to determine if the grievance alleges professional misconduct in violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. If it does, it is processed as a complaint that is thoroughly investigated by the CDC, and then brought before a panel of lawyers from across the state, or a District Court. If the complaint is sustained, it can lead to serious disciplinary procedures, including being disbarred.

Paxton's people are calling the grievance a political stunt by “liberal activists.” But it's not an issue that was created by Democrats–Paxton's Republican primary opponents are the ones who first brought up Paxton's criminal record.

Being removed from the bar would be a serious problem for the man who's running to be the top lawyer in the state of Texas. Between the State Bar grievance and the criminal complaint, Texans could soon have a candidate for attorney general who is utterly unqualified to be there.  

About Author

Katie Singh

Katie grew up in Austin and has been involved in Texas politics since 2004. She has been a part of several campaigns, from state house races to working at President Obama's campaign headquarters in 2012. She loves public policy, public health, and tacos. Katie tweets from @kasingh19.

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