In what can only be construed as a brave, well-thought-out, politically uninfluenced decision, the Texas State Bar has decided not to sanction Attorney General Ken "I Got Your Gay Marriage License Right Here, Pal" Paxton for telling county clerks it was OK to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
In February, the state bar was ordered to investigate whether Paxton's written opinion in the wake of the landmark SCOTUS decision amounted to "professional misconduct." The key word there is "ordered" — the bar in 2015 originally dismissed a complaint from a group of lawyers, former state bar directors, and judges, alleging that Paxton's opinion was unconstitutionally bananas. That cadre of stubborn jurists who, like, feel that the law should be followed and stuff, appealed to the bar's Board of Disciplinary Appeals, which kicked it back to state bar investigators.
But the Texas Tribune reports that the bar dismissed the complaint August 3, stating in a notice that "The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct."
Issued at the request of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Paxton's opinion that county clerks could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if
they were homophobic, backward bigots it conflicted with their religious beliefs caused confusion and delays throughout the state.
Paxton spokesperson Marc Ryland told the Tribune that "We are happy — but not surprised — that this meritless complaint was finally dismissed."
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The Trib also reports:
Steve Fischer, a former director of the State Bar of Texas and one of the attorneys who filed the complaint, said that while he didn't get the result he wanted, there is “no further interest to continue the grievance.”
“We sort of made our point that he can’t tell clerks to disobey a Supreme Court’s ruling," he said. "It’s the law of the land. He's entitled to his own personal opinion, but he should draw a line.”
We definitely believe that Ryland wasn't surprised. When your state's top law man has been wrist-slapped for state securities violations and has felony indictments dangling over his head, and yet can continue to conduct state business without much bother, it's hardly surprising that the state bar — a generally toothless organ — would have much to say.
We've seen the Texas State Bar swiftly suspend attorneys for non-payment of dues, or missing a continuing education class, which are apparently cardinal sins. But flagrantly ignoring the law? Not so much. Paxton should thank the investigators with a sweet stock tip.