Texas AG Dodges Ethics Action Over Gay Marriage

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — The State Bar of Texas has tossed an ethics complaint against state Attorney General Ken Paxton regarding a controversial advisory opinion to county clerks and judges to deny marriage licenses to gays in defiance on the U.S. Supreme Court.
     Over 200 attorneys filed the grievance last summer in the wake of the high court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage. They said Paxton’s non-binding opinion irresponsibly told other elected officials to violate the law.
     Paxton’s opinion stated that a “lawless” Supreme Court ignored the “text and spirit” of the Constitution by “manufactur[ing]” a non-existent right.
     The state bar disagreed, saying, “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct” in an Aug. 3 notice obtained by The Texas Tribune.
     Paxton spokesman Marc Rylander told the Tribune he is “happy, but not surprised” that the “meritless” complaint was dismissed.
     Despite the dismissal, Paxton’s legal woes are not over. He filed a last-ditch effort on Aug. 3 with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to toss three felony securities fraud charges against him before trial.
     Paxton was charged in Collin County a year ago with two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failing to register with the Texas State Securities Board.
     Prosecutors say Paxton raised money from investors for McKinney-based technology firm Servergy while he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He is accused of not telling investors he would earn commissions on the deals by falsely claiming that he was investing in the company.
     A trial judge rejected Paxton’s motions to dismiss the charges in December, and an en banc Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas rejected his appeal in June. The case will go to trial if his latest appeal to the state’s highest criminal appeals court is rejected.
     Paxton also faces a separate federal securities fraud lawsuit filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April, which mirrors the allegations in his criminal case.
     He asked a federal judge in June to dismiss two of the civil securities fraud charges against him, calling them “unsupported and legally insufficient.” The SEC responded in July, saying the charges are “rather well-pleaded” and “neither dramatic nor overreaching.”
     Paxton was also forced to defend accusations of violating the rules of his office when it was revealed last month he accepted a $100,000 gift from the leader of a Dallas company that was investigated for Medicaid fraud.

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