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Paxton prosecutors sue AG office to block records

Hold on to your hats.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

In an unusual and head-spinning twist, prosecutors 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.

The latest twist began Oct. 14 when The Dallas Morning News requested copies of thousands of pages of investigative records that prosecutors had provided to Paxton’s defense lawyers in preparation for a potential trial on allegations that Paxton broke state securities laws in private business deals in 2011 and 2012.

Prosecutors sent a same-day reply email denying the request, saying previous attorney general opinions had declared such information off limits under the Texas Public Information Act. They also sought an attorney general’s opinion on whether the records could be withheld — a step the law requires when requested government information is denied.

On Jan. 4, however, the attorney general’s Open Records Division sent a letter informing the prosecutors that they had failed to take a second step required by the law — submitting their legal reasons for denying the request, along with samples of the requested information so Open Records Division lawyers could verify whether it fell under the law’s exceptions to disclosure.

Because the law wasn’t followed, the requested information must be automatically released, the letter said, adding that the only step remaining to prosecutors is a lawsuit “if you believe the information is confidential.”

That lawsuit was filed in Travis County district court Thursday by Dave Feldman, a Houston lawyer that Paxton’s trial judge appointed to represent prosecutors Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice and Nicole DeBorde in the matter.

[…]

“Talk about meeting yourself coming around the corner,” Feldman told the American-Statesman. “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.”

Usually a story requires some element of time travel to have that kind of brain-bending quality. I might suggest that this is the sort of thing that happens when criminal defense attorneys get employed as special prosecutors: They actually take this kind of thing seriously. Look at it this way – this will not be an issue when Paxton appeals his conviction. Getting it right the first time has its merits. Trail Blazers, which has a copy of the lawsuit, has more.

(By the way, it’s not clear to me if this is the same “Dave Feldman” as our past City Attorney, but I’m going to assume that it is. If nothing else, it’s simpler that way.)

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