Weekly News Round Up Of The State’s Top Law Enforcement Officer – Texas Attorney General

Staff Report

Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to:

  • defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas
  • represent the State in litigation
  • approve public bond issues

To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes.

The Texas AG sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.

Many Texans look to the Office of the Attorney General for guidance with disputes and legal issues. The agency receives hundreds of letters, phone calls and visits each week about crime victims’ compensation, child support, abuse in nursing homes, possible consumer fraud and other topics. To find out more about the Texas Attorney General, visit the official website at https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/.







AG Paxton: Texas’ Voter Registration Procedures are Consistent with Federal Voter Laws

A legal team from Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office vigorously defended Texas’ voter registration procedures during oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

They argued that Texas’ registration process is consistent with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and that the trial court’s slate of costly and unreasonable requirements drastically exceeded the demands of federal law.

They also pointed out that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they were already registered to vote at the time they filed their lawsuit in March 2016.

“Congress, in the text of the NVRA, recognized that requiring a voter to sign a registration application is an important means of upholding election integrity,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Texas’ duly elected policy-makers agreed, and federal judges have no right to alter that decision because they disagree with it. Not only that, but the district court’s injunction also imposed an array of intrusive requirements—all at the request of plaintiffs who already have registered to vote. I’m hopeful that the 5th Circuit will reverse this decision, which is flawed from top to bottom.”

In May of last year, a U.S. District Court ruled that Texas violated the “motor voter” provision of the National Voter Registration Act by failing to automatically register voters who use the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) online driver’s license renewal and change of address website.

In its injunction, the court gave the State an impossibly tight window to design and implement a new system and created a range of other requirements nowhere mandated by federal law. Shortly thereafter, the 5th Circuit granted Texas’ request for an emergency stay pending appeal.

The Texas Legislature enacted statutes governing voter registration that generally require written signatures on voter registration applications to combat election fraud.

Currently, Texans who use the DPS driver’s license renewal and change of address website are sent to a separate page – administered by the Texas secretary of state – where they can complete an online application, print it out, sign it and mail it to their county voter registrar.

AG Paxton Seeks Summary Judgment to Protect Texans and Physicians from Unlawful Obamacare Requirement

AUSTIN – Leading a multistate coalition, Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a summary judgment motion asking a U.S. District Court to strike down an unlawful Obamacare requirement that increases costs to Texas taxpayers and violates the medical judgment and conscience rights of physicians across the country.

In August 2016, Attorney General Paxton led a lawsuit against a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule “interpreting” the definition of “sex” discrimination within Obamacare as a state of mind, not a biological fact. The rule forced state doctors, health care workers and state employers who provide insurance to provide sex change surgeries and abortions, even if they objected because of their religious beliefs or best medical judgments, with taxpayers footing the costs.

In 2017, the district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against enforcement of the rule, but Attorney General Paxton is urging the court to issue a summary judgment declaring the rule unlawful so it can be wiped permanently from the Code of Federal Regulations.

“This was the Obama administration’s attempt to rewrite law without congressional authority and to trample on the states’ authority to provide set rules for the medical profession,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The federal government has no right to force Texans to pay for surgical procedures intended to change a person’s sex. Our multistate coalition is asking the U.S. District Court to issue a summary judgment to protect medical professionals who believe that engaging in such procedures or treatment violates their Hippocratic Oath, their conscience, or their personal religious beliefs, which are protected by the Constitution and federal law.”

States that fail to comply with the rule risk losing billions of dollars in federal healthcare funding. Texas alone could lose an average of $40 billion a year, but those who stand to lose the most are the nation’s most vulnerable citizens who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Attorney General Paxton is joined on the brief by his counterparts from Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Louisiana and Wisconsin, along the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi.

View a copy of the brief here.

AG Paxton Files Amicus Brief Calling on Supreme Court to Rein in the Administrative State and Uphold the Separation of Powers

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Chevron deference, the doctrine that requires federal courts to defer to agency interpretations of statutes.

Attorney General Paxton urged the high court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision in United Parcel Service v. Postal Regulatory Commission, which deferred to an administrative agency’s view of the law without analyzing the underlying statute Congress passed.

“The very concept of judicial deference – that federal courts should relinquish their constitutional authority to interpret the law to unelected federal bureaucrats – makes a mockery of the constitutional, representative government our Founders gave us,” Attorney General Paxton said. “They believed that the powers of government should be distributed between the three branches of government; Chevron gives us the opposite by concentrating power in the hands of faceless bureaucrats who cannot be held accountable by the nation’s voters. As our brief shows, a growing chorus of judges, justices, and top legal minds are recognizing the damage Chevron has done. The Supreme Court should put it out of its misery.”

Chevron deference originated in the 1984 Supreme Court case, Chevron USA., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

It required federal courts to uphold reasonable agency interpretations of congressional statutes considered ambiguous, even if the court’s own interpretation would be different.

This practice is a significant departure from the judiciary’s traditional role of “saying what the law is.” There has also been little agreement among courts as to what should qualify as ambiguous.

View a copy of the brief here.

AG Paxton Leads Multistate Coalition Urging SCOTUS to Review California Law That Infringes Protected Second Amendment Rights

AUSTIN – Leading a multistate coalition, Attorney General Ken Paxton today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an important Second Amendment case challenging the constitutionality of a California law that bans the sale of many handguns commonly sold in Texas and other parts of the country to law-abiding California residents for self-defense.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, Attorney General Paxton wrote that appeals courts, lacking strong guidance from the Supreme Court, are undervaluing the Second Amendment and wrongly permitting governments at all levels to curtail the Second Amendment rights of individuals.

The California case is the most recent example. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld California’s law, even though evidence showed no handgun currently sold in the U.S. can meet that state’s microstamping requirement. The court’s decision skirted the constitutional question of whether California’s law prevents residents from fully exercising the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

“The time has come for courts to stop treating Second Amendment rights as second-rate rights,” Attorney General Paxton said. “By taking up the case challenging California’s handgun law, the U.S. Supreme Court can ultimately provide a clear road map for lower courts on how to decide cases concerning the right to keep and bear arms that provides proper protection for that right.”

In a previous ruling (Heller v. District of Columbia), the Supreme Court acknowledged that the Second Amendment protects the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms, and indicated that its future decisions would guide lower courts in the scope and application of the Second Amendment. But the high court has not decided a significant Second Amendment case since 2010.

Attorney General Paxton is joined on the friend-of-the-court brief by his counterparts from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Read a copy of the brief here.

Request For Opinion

Received: Thursday, January 31, 2019

Read Original Request: RQ-0268-KP

Re: Whether the Jackson County Navigation District may require an easement for new and existing aerial utility lines which cross over its boundaries

Requestor: Ms. Michelle Darilek, CPA
Jackson County Auditor
411 North Wells, Room 201
Edna, Texas 77957

AG Paxton Asks U.S. District Court to Grant Summary Judgment Declaring DACA Unlawful

Austin – Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a multistate motion for summary judgment with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, asking it to declare the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unlawful and to stop the federal government from issuing or renewing any DACA permits in the future.

DACA unilaterally granted lawful presence and work authorization to nearly one million unlawfully present aliens without congressional authorization. Last August, the district court concluded that DACA is unlawful, and it confirmed that Texas is likely to win its multistate lawsuit to end the program. But the court stopped short of issuing a preliminary injunction of an ongoing government program.

“Our lawsuit is about the rule of law, not about the wisdom of any particular immigration policy,” Attorney General Paxton said. “DACA is just as illegal as the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, which a Texas led multistate coalition blocked by challenging it in a court case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last August, the district court acknowledged that Congress has the sole authority to write immigration laws, and the president is not free to disregard those duly-enacted laws. We’re asking the court to grant summary judgment declaring DACA unlawful.”

In 2017, President Trump agreed to phase out DACA by March 5, 2018, after Attorney General Paxton led a multistate coalition requesting he do so or face a court challenge. Following several court rulings blocking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from rescinding DACA, the Trump administration petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. Those cases remain pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. View a copy of the brief here.

AG Paxton Offers Assistance to Texas District and County Attorneys as They Investigate Catholic Priests Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

Austin – Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued a letter offering his office’s assistance to all district and county attorneys in Texas as they prepare to investigate cases involving clergymen accused of sexually abusing children.

Last week, the 15 Texas Catholic Dioceses publicly identified nearly 300 priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse have been made.

“My office stands ready to provide whatever assistance local investigators and prosecutors may need in accordance with state law. I am committed to helping provide safe communities for Texas children and communities of faith alike.” Attorney General Paxton said. “Protecting the most vulnerable among us, especially our children, is our top priority. No one should live in fear of abuse, especially when they believe they are in the hands of their church family.”

Under the state constitution, Texas law grants original criminal jurisdiction over these cases to local district and county attorneys. However, local attorneys may request assistance from the Office of the Attorney General in both the investigation and prosecution stages of criminal cases.

To read the letter, click here.

UPDATED: AG Paxton Asks 5th Circuit to Let Texas Defund Planned Parenthood Immediately

AG Paxton: Full 5th Circuit Agrees to Review Texas Case on Defunding Planned Parenthood
Attorney General Ken Paxton today released the following statement after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed to review the Texas case to defund Planned Parenthood:
“I’m pleased that the full 5th Circuit will take up this case, and I’m hopeful for a definitive ruling that Planned Parenthood cannot challenge the state’s decision to remove it from the Texas Medicaid program as a result of its unethical actions.”

Austin – Attorney General Ken Paxton today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to stay a U.S. District Court’s unlawful injunction and allow Texas to immediately end taxpayer payments to Planned Parenthood through the state’s Medicaid program.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit unanimously lifted the district court’s injunction, ruling that it applied the wrong legal standard. With that victory in hand, Texas has now asked the entire 5th Circuit to resolve conflicting law on the issue of whether the plaintiffs in the case could even bring suit in the first place.

But while the court considers that issue, the unlawful injunction forces the state to continue allowing Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates to provide Medicaid services and pay them millions of dollars in reimbursements, despite the state’s determination that they violated medical and ethical standards.

“There is no justification for continuing to prevent Texas from terminating Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program when the 5th Circuit has already determined that the district court’s injunction was unlawful,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Planned Parenthood’s reprehensible conduct, captured in undercover videos, proves that it is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act. Continuing to provide taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood is harmful to the program and violates the conscience rights of Texans.”

During oral argument before the 5th Circuit last June, Attorney General Paxton’s legal team recounted raw, unedited footage from eight hours of undercover video showing violations of medical and ethical standards by Texas Planned Parenthood officials.

The footage was also described in the 5th Circuit’s subsequent opinion, including a still shot from the video showing the aftermath of a second trimester abortion.

In the video, Planned Parenthood employees admit that some doctors performed abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research and would manipulate the timing and methods of abortions.

Federal laws prohibit researchers from performing abortions to secure fetal tissue for their own research under such circumstances, and prohibits modifying abortion procedures to obtain tissue for research purposes.

In December 2016, the inspector general of Texas Health and Human Services removed Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program for the video footage of actions that “violate generally accepted medical standards,” and for making false statements to law enforcement.

Despite that, Planned Parenthood has received around $3.4 million a year in Texas Medicaid funding pursuant to the unlawful injunction.

To view a copy of brief, click here.

AG Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit Arrests Starr County Woman for Illegal Voting Using a Dead Person’s Identity

Austin – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Election Fraud Unit of his office arrested Bernice Annette Garza for using a dead person’s identity to vote illegally in the March 1, 2016, Democratic primary election in Starr County.

Garza was indicted by a grand jury in Hidalgo County and is charged with voter impersonation, illegal voting, and providing false information on an application for an early voting ballot.

In 2016, Garza signed and submitted an application for early voting ballot by mail for Hortencia Rios, who died nine years earlier. Garza used the deceased woman’s identity to cast a vote by mail.

“Mail ballots are inherently insecure. Vote harvesters, who make a living by exploiting vulnerable processes intended to make it easier for people to vote, threaten the viability of the mail ballot system and must be caught and prosecuted,” Attorney General Paxton said. “My office will continue to use everything in its power to prevent voter fraud and restore integrity to the voting process in Texas.”

Attorney General Paxton’s office will prosecute Garza’s case, with the assistance of the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. The illegal voting charges against her are second-degree felonies punishable by 2-20 years in prison.

From 2005-2017, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 97 defendants for numerous voter fraud violations. In 2018, Attorney General Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit – with assistance from a criminal justice grant from the governor’s office – prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations.

Last February, the attorney general announced a significant voter fraud initiative and addressed key problems and policy areas related to election law.

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