State District Judge George Gallagher has presided over some high-profile cases in the past, but the Tarrant County jurist on Saturday landed in the middle of more attention than he could ever have anticipated.
That’s when news broke publicly that Gallagher will preside in the criminal trial of Texas’ top lawyer, state Attorney General Ken Paxton.
A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton last week on three felony counts of securities fraud and one charge of failing to register as a securities agent, according to reports. The indictment was unsealed Monday and Paxton surrendered to authorities soon afterward. and was released on bond.
The 1st Administrative Judicial Region, which includes Collin and Dallas counties, needed to find someone in the area to hear the case because regional judges were unavailable, a source told the Star-Telegram. The source, who requested anonymity because they are not allowed to publicly discuss the case, said judges may have recused themselves from presiding over the case because of history with Paxton.
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Paxton represented District 70 in the state House, which includes McKinney and Collin County, for 10 years. He also represented Collin and Dallas counties when he was elected to Senate District 8 in 2012.
Gallagher has presided over the 396th District Court since January 2000 and was last re-elected in 2012 for a term until 2016.
He served as an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County for four years. He was also a partner in Zachry, Hill, Beatty, Butcher & Gallagher, a Fort Worth criminal defense firm, according to his biography in a book he co-authored.
One case in Gallagher’s court that drew national attention was last year’s trial of Michele Williams, a Keller mother who was convicted of killing her husband while their young daughter slept in another room. Williams ultimately was sentenced to 60 years in prison in the case that was covered extensively by national television and cable networks.
Gallagher also recently oversaw and sentenced a man to 50 years in prison for a 2009 drunken driving accident in Arlington that resulted in a boy’s death. He also sentenced a Haltom City woman to 30 years in prison for fatally shooting her cousin’s boyfriend in 2013.
Gallagher even served as a course marshal for the Ryder Cup in Kildare, Ireland, in 2006.
Gregory Shugart, the Tarrant County criminal courts administrator, said the judge’s appointment should not affect his court’s business.
“The 396th is a very efficient court, and between magistrates and visiting judges we will ensure the court continues to operate,” he said.
Gallagher did not return a phone call on Saturday. He also instructed parties involved in the case to refrain from public comments, according to Paxton’s legal team.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770