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Paxton’s first day in court

It was a little weird.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday pleaded not guilty to violating state securities laws, while also telling the judge presiding over his felony case that he currently does not have an attorney.

Joe Kendall, Paxton’s lead counsel until Thursday morning, appeared in the Tarrant County courtroom with the first-term attorney general, but told the judge about halfway through the proceeding that he would be stepping down. He did not elaborate, saying only that there were issues in the matter that spurred him to do so.

His filed request to the judge to be removed from the case, however, cites unspecified “differences” between Paxton and Kendall’s law firm

“During the course of this representation, differences have arisen that adversely affect the attorney client relationship making further representation untenable,” the request reads.

Paxton told the judge he currently did not have legal representation, and that Dallas lawyer Pete Schulte, who had said he formally had joined the legal team, had not been hired as co-counsel.

“Yes, I’ll be having other counsel,” Paxton told Judge George Gallagher. “I do not right now… I don’t know who exactly will be on the team.”

Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, two Houston criminal defense attorneys appointed to prosecute the case, said they did not know why Kendall, a former judge, was leaving Paxton’s legal team. In court, they told the judge they had amassed 14,000 pages of evidentiary documents in electronic form and were converting another seven to eight thousand.

Judge Gallagher set a Sept. 30 deadline for Paxton to file a motion to quash or take issue with his three felony indictments, issued by a Collin County grand jury last month. The state will have until Oct. 15 to respond and then the judge will rule. If he sides with Paxton, the prosecutors will be able to re-present their case to the same grand jury that indicted Paxton.

The Trib adds on.

During the hearing, Kendall indicated Paxton had retained Dallas-based lawyer Pete Schulte as counsel, appearing to contradict what the attorney general said about not having a lawyer. Gallagher also confirmed that Schulte had told him that he should be included on communications about the case.

Asked about the discrepancy, Paxton said he meant that he had not yet formally brought Schulte into the case as a lead attorney.

Later that morning, Schulte tweeted that “clarification will be forthcoming today” about who would be representing Paxton. “It’s unfortunate that Joe Kendall created this confusion in court as he was leaving the team,” Schulte said.

Special prosecutors Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer greeted the defense’s changing counsel with skepticism.

Telling the judge they would not raise a formal objection “this time,” Wice pointed out that Paxton was on his “third lawyer in as many months.” He said that he hoped the pattern did not become a stalling tactic.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Wice said he had not known Kendall planned to step down. But he added: “Nothing surprises me.”

I will admit, Paxton’s sudden change of attorney surprises and intrigues me. I suppose it’s most likely the case that there’s nothing to it – maybe their personalities didn’t mesh, maybe they couldn’t agree on a strategy, who knows – but it’s impossible to not speculate about more lurid scenarios. All foolishness aside, I’ll be interested to see what his new attorney has to say about the indictments. He’s going to have to do a lot of reading real fast to be able to prepare any motions by that September 30 deadline. Trail Blazers and the DMN Crime Blog have more.

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4 Comments

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    “During the course of this representation, differences have arisen that adversely affect the attorney client relationship making further representation untenable” is lawyer-speak for either (1) the client is a jackass who won’t listen to my advice or (2) the client isn’t paying my bills.

  2. Kenneth Fair says:

    Given that it’s only been two months since he hired Joe Kendall to represent him, I lean towards explanation (1).

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