Lt. Gov. Patrick Issues Gag Order in AG Paxton's Impeachment Trial

Lt. Gov. Patrick wants everyone to shut up for right now.
Lt. Gov. Patrick wants everyone to shut up for right now. Screenshot

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Monday issued a gag order in the upcoming impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, saying the all the accusations and counter accusations flying about threaten the beleaguered lawyer's right to a fair trial.

Apparently, this will actually stop Tony Buzbee, one of the lawyers along with Dan Cogdell who are representing Paxton, from proceeding with a planned press conference on Tuesday afternoon. He canceled in on Twitter following the gag order.

Without naming Buzbee, Patrick in an Exhibit A (that he urged members of the impeachment court not to read) singled out "an attorney for [Paxton who] used inflammatory and prejudicial language by publicly describing the impeachment as a 'sham engineered by someone with a personal vendetta.' The attorney also referred to Houston actions as an 'evil, illegal, and unprecedented weaponization of state power' and called the articles of impeachment 'bologna.'"

Patrick also took issue with  a member of the House Board of Managers (State Rep. Andrew S. Murr R-Junction) who wrote an opinion article appearing in several newspapers that used what he called "inflammatory and prejudicial language like 'harrowing findings of corruption,' 'shocking pattern of abuse and criminality' and 'one overwhelming conclusion.'"

And he decried the statements made by the prosecuting attorneys  (Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin) representing House members who issued the articles of impeachment impeachment  who "used inflammatory language including 'crook' and 'the allegations will blow your mind.'"

Patrick, who as the lieutenant governor will preside over the impeachment trial, said the pre-trial statements could affect someone's verdict and that these statements have "been so pervasive, prejudicial, and inflammatory that there is a substantial likelihood that members' initial opinions may not be set aside.."

Unlike the cases involving a regular jury whose members can be replaced, the jurors in an impeachment trial are set.

Patrick also found that there was little likelihood that any of the people involved in making public statements would stop unless a gag order compelled them to.

What this means is that yes, attorneys can still answer questions about say the scheduling of the next hearing or information in public records. But they can't attack the reputation, character or credibility of any party, witness or attorney involved in the case. It also means Senate and House members, their staffs and witnesses can't issue what might be considered prejudicial comments. 

Anyone who violates the gag order may be held in contempt of court which is punishable by up to six months in a jail and a fine of up to $500.

Paxton's trial begins September 5. His lawyers have said he will not testify in it. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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