Headline of the Day
“West Texas Man Who Won $2 Million on Powerball Says He’ll Keep Working in the Oil Fields”
— Houston Chronicle. But why?!
— Travis Bubenik (@traviswesttx) January 15, 2016
Who’s on First? — This is peak lawyer-fight. Credit to the Austin American-Statesman which lays out the crazy, Catch-22 ridiculousness right at the beginning of its “head-spinning” piece. “[P]rosecutors in the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the attorney general’s office Thursday to block the release of sensitive case information that could hinder Paxton’s defense but that his own agency ordered to be turned over to a Texas newspaper. Go ahead, read that sentence again.” It’s like this: The Dallas Morning News requested copies of material related to the investigation of Paxton’s possible felonious state securities dealings. The prosecutors in Paxton’s case didn’t want to cough it up because it would hurt Paxton’s defense, claiming the “release of information that would violate Paxton’s privacy and property interests, including his right to an impartial trial.” So they appealed to the Attorney Generals office. The Attorney General’s office said the prosecutors failed to follow proper procedure in their request and said the records could be accessed. In response, the prosecutors are now filing a lawsuit (they are being represented by another lawyer in the lawsuit) against the office of the Attorney General. “Talk about meeting yourself coming around the corner,” said the lawyer representing the prosecutors. “We’re having to sue the AG so we don’t have to disclose information adverse to the AG that we shouldn’t have to disclose under the law.” If there’s not Armando Iannucci-level satire being developed for the movies, we’ve failed as a society.
Repeat Crusade — When he’s not fighting against prosecutors trying to turn him into a felon, Paxton is fighting actual felons. In a completely unrelated matter, the Attorney General launched yet another initiative to combat sex trafficking on Thursday. “With three lawyers, five investigators and a forensic accountant, the unit will help local officials pursue criminal cases while allowing Paxton’s office to wield its power to pursue civil racketeering penalties that can include seized assets and fines of up to $250,000 per count,” according to the Statesman. “The new unit will be led by Kirsta Melton, a prosecutor who has been working on human trafficking cases since 2009, first with the Bexar County district attorney’s office and, for the past year, with the attorney general’s office,” writes the Texas Tribune. It’s another, perhaps more proactive step in the fight against human trafficking. Less than two years ago that Governor Perry and other officials, like Houston Mayor Annise Parker launched a public campaign from that city to raise awareness of sex trafficking, including putting up billboards. This new unit, however, appears to be making strides against a much-needed issue. “Texas has the second-highest estimated victim population of any state, and Houston has the highest number of victims of any American city, according to the resource center.”
Christian Ethics — Although he doesn’t spend half the energy as his Lieutenant Governor reminding the public that he is a man of God, Governor Abbott sure does like to dip his toe in the waters once in awhile to demonstrate how he ranks religion and the rule of law when it comes to public office. The State Bar of Texas is currently working hard to ensure that a Christian ethics class passes muster of accreditation, after first concluding that the “course material didn’t meet state legal standards.” Why the change of opinion? Direct pressure from Abbott. In December, the governor flat-out accused the Bar of “religious discrimination.” Earlier this week, “Nancy R. Smith, director of the State Bar’s Minimum Continuing Legal Education program, said the Nov. 4 letter disallowing credit ‘conveyed an unintended and incorrect impression … regarding the provision of credit for courses containing moral or religious content,’” according to the San Antonio Express-News. “She emphasized the committee’s position is that legal ethics credit may be granted for training on moral and religious topics ‘presented in the context of legal training.'” Now here’s a fun question: would a Muslim ethics class be tolerated at all, or would there be cries of Sharia law? What would a Buddhist-focused legal ethics class look like — are past, reincarnated lives admissible as evidence in a current court case?