Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s case gets even messier

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton AP

It was awkward enough that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state’s chief attorney, faces three felony securities fraud indictments in his home county. Now Collin County commissioners can’t figure out how much to pay special prosecutors in the case.

And a Paxton political supporter says he’ll sue the commissioners if they pay too much.

Kind of a mess.

The commissioners are trying to work it out. They’re scheduled to talk about it again on Monday, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Decisions to be made by Tarrant County State District Judge George Gallagher, who was appointed to preside over Paxton’s case, will be a huge factor in the pay question.

And a key element will be the discrepancy between Tarrant County and Collin County on what they typically pay special prosecutors — which is the same as what they pay court-appointed defense attorneys in major felony cases.

Collin County pays a paltry $1,000 fee, plus $1,000 a day during trial.

In Tarrant County, the payments are $50 to $150 per hour, plus up to $300 per court appearance and up to $1,500 a day during the trial.

Commissioners originally guessed that the Paxton prosecution would cost $2 million. Then they lowered that to $285,000. Now, after examining their normal payment schedule, they believe it could be as little as $33,000.

Paying Tarrant County rates would cost around $117,000, the Morning News reported.

No one can doubt that prosecuting a sitting Texas attorney general is an important, high-profile case.

But our system of justice calls for equal treatment, no matter the defendant’s position in life.

It’s on that principle that Collin County real estate developer Jeffory Blackard, who has donated money to Paxton political campaigns, says he’ll sue if commissioners pay too much to prosecute Paxton.

There could be more of this confusion in Texas’ future. Lawmakers decided this year that state officials accused of on-the-job crimes should all be tried in their home counties rather than in Austin.