AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After attorneys representing suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requested some Democrats be removed as jurors from the upcoming impeachment trial, the prosecuting lawyers said the three senators are capable of acting fairly and should not be removed from the jury.
In a motion dated July 21, attorneys presenting the case to remove Paxton from office rejected his request that three Democratic senators should be disqualified from acting as jurors in the trial.
In a motion also filed on July 21, attorneys defending Paxton argued that three of the Senate’s 12 Democrats — Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, Sen. Nathan Johnson of Dallas, and Sen. José Menéndez of San Antonio — have shown prior bias toward Paxton and should therefore be removed from the jury.
The Senate is set to act as a court of impeachment starting on Sept. 5, with senators acting as jurors who will decide whether to remove a statewide elected leader from office for the first time in more than 100 years.
The House voted to impeach Paxton in late May on accusations of various crimes and misconduct dating back to when he was first elected to office in 2015.
Paxton’s legal team noted the impeachment court already “presumably recused” his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, from a vote on the 20 articles due to her conflict of interest as his spouse.
“If Senator Paxton may be required to step aside, Senators that have demonstrated bias or prejudice against the Attorney General must be required to do so as well,” Ken Paxton’s team wrote.
However, attorneys prosecuting the case on behalf of the House board of impeachment managers — Rusty Hardin, Dick DeGuerin and Harriet O’Neill — responded in a filing rejecting this claim, while suggesting Paxton’s attorneys of violating the new gag order.
“The House Managers oppose this motion and trust that all Senators previously determined to be eligible to vote will follow their constitutional obligation to impartially try Mr. Paxton,” they wrote.
KXAN news partner, the Texas Tribune, first reported Paxton’s request Friday.
Filings related to the case are posted on a state government website for the public to see, but the prosecution team accused their opponents of sharing the motion to remove jurors with the media before it had been posted online.
“Mr. Paxton’s motion was shared with the press even though the Senate had not posted it to the website. The House Managers trust that the Senate will deal with any departure from its mandates as the Senate deems fit.”
Team Paxton’s arguments to dismiss Gutierrez, Johnson and Menéndez
Paxton’s legal team, led by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, argues the three Democrats have demonstrated they have a bias against Paxton and therefore are unfit to try the Texas attorney general, citing previous comments to press and on social media.
For Menéndez, Paxton’s team argues he is unfit due to public comments he has made about the suspended attorney general dating back to 2018 — including “some of the circumstances that will be addressed at trial,” like criticism of Paxton’s 2020 attempt to overturn the presidential election results in key swing states, not including Texas.
Gutierrez, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2024, said in an MSNBC interview last month that there is an “abundance of misdeeds” and the evidence against Paxton “could not be refuted.” Paxton argues these comments establish clear prejudice and bias against him.
The team argues Johnson already violated the gag order last week, when he called attention to a $3 million donation Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who will preside over the trial as its judge — received from a political action committee closely aligned with Paxton, called Defend Texas Liberty.
“If they’re attempting to influence the carrying out of our solemn constitutional duty to act impartially: shame on” the PAC, Johnson said in a tweet.
Nexstar reached out to Gutierrez, Johnson and Menéndez for comment about accusations of their impartiality and will update this story if we hear back.
Ultimately, the lieutenant governor will have authority as presider of the impeachment court to weigh in on whether the three senators can remain as jurors. The Senate previously approved the rules, which only refer to Sen. Paxton as a juror who is barred from voting on any of the 20 articles of impeachment.