This week, the second of two lawsuits was filed alleging two Senate impeachment rules and a July 17 gag order violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This development is crucial in the defense of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is facing one of the shadiest impeachment trials in the state’s history.
On Friday, Houston attorney Jared Woodfill, of Harris County, filed the first lawsuit against defendants including the Texas Senate, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Austin Osborn, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Steven Hotze and Sam Malone (Harris County), Allesan Paige Streeter (Collin County), and former Texas House Rep. Molly White (Sutton County).
The federal lawsuit was filed over Senate Rules 10 and 31, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s gag order, arguing that these measures are unconstitutional. Plaintiffs include Hotze, Streeter and Dr. Richard Mabray (Victoria County). The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and seeks for the court to permanently and immediately suspend these measures.
The gag order and the Senate’s rules governing Gen. Paxton’s impeachment trial, both lawsuits allege, violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting members from discussing the trial with the public.
In banning senators from interacting with their constituents, the Senate is “effectively silencing the voice of all Texans in this historic process,” the lawsuit argues.
These rules “violate the well-established principle of ‘one person one vote’ repeatedly required by the U.S. Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit,” which is the Court of Appeals, it continues.
Furthermore, Senate Rule 31 also violates the Fourteenth Amendment, the lawsuit alleges, because it bars Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKiney, wife of Paxton) from voting in Gen. Paxton’s trial. Other senators with “personal or private interests” are free to vote, it continues, citing Article 15, Section 2 and Article 3, Section 22 of the Texas Constitution.
The Texas Supreme Court has made it clear that Article 3, Section 22 “does not apply in an Article 15 proceeding,” both lawsuits argue.
Article 3, Section 22 states that a member who has a personal or private interest in any measure pending before the Legislature cannot vote. Article 15 relates to impeachment. Essentially, Sen. Angela Paxton must be able to vote regardless of her marriage to General. Paxton, because the “measure” on the table is related to the impeachment of the Attorney General, the lawsuit argues.
Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that every senator “presiding over General Paxton’s impeachment trial has bias or partiality for or against him,” by party affiliation alone. Sen. Angela Paxton, who represents SD-8, is by no means the only member with a personal interest to protect.
The lawsuit articulates that “The Senate rules directly violate this fundamental constitutional principle,” of ‘one person, one vote,’ by “fully disenfranchising all of the voters in the district of Sen. Angela Paxton.”
Simultaneously, by barring Sen. Angela Paxton from voting, the relative representation of every other voter in Texas is altered, the lawsuit says. Without her vote, cast in the interests of her constituents, the importance of each remaining vote is skewed.
The lawsuit includes exhibits of text messages from elected officials to Hotze. The officials reveal that they can’t speak with him about the impeachment process due to Lt. Gov. Patrick’s gag order. Repercussions of violating the gag order include being found in contempt of the court or facing up to six months of jail time.
Disturbingly, the media also cannot access or request detailed information about the impeachment proceedings. This is alarmingly unconstitutional, rendering Texas citizens uninformed, ignorant and disenfranchised.
In an interview this week with The Center Square, Woodfill voiced that all Texans should be concerned when “the government passes a rule or gag order preventing them from speaking to elected officials about matters of state-wide importance.”
“Political speech is one of the bedrocks of the First Amendment, and we will not allow it to be trampled on by The Texas Senate and their rules relating to the impeachment of General Paxton.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial is scheduled to begin on September 5. Mark your calendars and tune in to www.KatyChristianMagazine.com for breaking developments. For good or for bad, the delicate future of Texas politics, and of the livelihood of our people, is unfolding right now.