AUSTIN (KXAN) – Following an investigation by the House General Investigating Committee, the conservative-leaning committee unanimously adopted a formal recommendation to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The committee laid out 20 articles of impeachment to the House members Thursday night. The 20 articles, or accusations, are the result of a two-month investigation that began after Paxton’s proposal emerged to use state funds to settle a $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit filed by four former employees who accused him of wrongdoing.
The House General Investigating Committee is calling up the articles enumerated in House Resolution 2377 on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the House’s consideration. The committee scheduled four hours for the impeachment debate – 40 minutes for opening arguments, 20 for closing and time evenly allocated for supporters and opponents of the impeachment for even debate, per a memo from the House General Investigating Committee.
How does impeachment work in the state?
Impeachment is the process by which the Texas legislative branch has the power to remove a public official from office, per Ballotpedia.
If the Texas House decides to impeach Paxtion, it does not mean he will receive criminal charges, as impeachment is not a criminal process.
“The primary purpose of impeachment is to protect the state, not to punish the offender,” the memo read, citing the Texas Supreme Court in 1924.
“In the matter of impeachment, the House acts somewhat in the capacity of a grand jury… and determines whether or not there is sufficient ground to justify the presentment of charges, and, if so, it adopts appropriate articles and prefers them before the Senate,” it continued.
In 1924, the Texas Supreme Court stated that an impeachable offense in the state does not need to qualify as a criminal offense, per the memo.
However, a public official may also be tried and punished if their acts are deemed to violate the law, per the Texas Constitution.
The committee memo states that Texas impeachment differs from federal impeachment in that the Texas Constitution does not keep a list of impeachable offenses. The U.S. Constitution lists treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors as impeachable offenses.
In order for an elected official or non-elected public official to be impeached, articles of impeachment must be brought by the House, per Texas code. If the House adopts the articles, the Texas Senate will then meet as a court of impeachment in a trial of the accused individual, per government code.
When the Texas Senate convenes to try the person, at least two-thirds of the Senate must be present.
“Judgement in cases of impeachment shall extend only to removal from office and disqualification from holding any office of honor, trust or profit under this State. A Party convicted on impeachment shall also be subject to indictment trial and punishment according to law,” per the Texas Constitution.
How many public officials have been impeached in Texas?
If Paxton is impeached, he will become only the third public official to successfully be impeached in the state.
In 1917, Texas Gov. James E. Ferguson became the first Texas public official to be impeached and the only governor to be impeached in the state’s history, per the Texas State Historical Association.
Then in 1976, O.P. Carrillo, a district judge, became the second official to be impeached and removed from office for evading payment of income taxes, per historical documents from Baylor University. Judge Carillo spent three years in prison after being convicted of tax fraud, per Ballotpedia.