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

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/.


WEEKLY NEWS ROUND-UP OF THE STATE’S

TOP LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER…

THE TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL

AG Paxton’s Office Asks 5th Circuit to Uphold a District Court’s Ruling That the Indian Child Welfare Act is Unconstitutional

AUSTIN – A legal team from Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office today presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit demonstrating that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is unconstitutional.

The law requires that a child’s ‘best interest’ – normally the governing inquiry in child welfare proceedings – be subordinated to racial considerations.

“State law requires courts to focus on placing children in the most loving and stable families possible, but ICWA requires that they disregard state law and compromise the well-being of Native-American children based on nothing more than their race,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Knowing the difficulties that await them if they attempt to adopt a Native child, many couples simply turn elsewhere at the outset. The tragic result is that Native children are deprived of loving families committed to their well-being. The federal government has no right to impose its illegal and discriminatory requirements on states. This separate and unequal system must go.”

The case centers on the Brackeen family, which attempted to adopt a young Native American boy after fostering him for nearly a year.

Although virtually everybody interested in the boy’s welfare supported his adoption by the Brackeens, ICWA required that he be transferred hundreds of miles away to a Native American couple who he had never met and with whom he had no family ties.

While the Native American couple ultimately withdrew its claim, the Brackeens challenged ICWA in federal court – in part because their son can still be stripped from them up to two years after the date the adoption went through.

The appeal before the 5th Circuit follows an earlier ruling from a federal district court that ICWA violates the 10th Amendment by commandeering state governments for federal purposes. It also agreed that the law discriminates based on race in violation of equal protection.

On March 1, 2019, a state court in Tarrant County found that the state statute requiring ICWA to be applied in Native American child custody proceedings violates the Texas Constitution. That case arose in the context of the Brackeens’ effort to adopt their son’s younger sister.

AG Paxton Urges 5th Circuit to Rule That the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Structure is Unconstitutional

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed his hope that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will strike down the structure of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as unconstitutional after hearing arguments today in the case.

Last July, he filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 5th Circuit as the leader of a 14-state coalition challenging the CFPB’s constitutionality.

“The CFPB has so much power and so little accountability, it operates like a branch of the government unto itself, violating the Constitution’s separation of powers and stifling economic growth through overregulation in the process,” Attorney General Paxton said. “It was set up so that its unelected director enjoys more unilateral authority than anyone else in the U.S. government, arguably even more than the President. Ultimately, a ruling by the 5th Circuit that the CFPB is unconstitutional will return control to the people, through their duly-elected representatives in Congress.”

Last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the CFPB’s structure was constitutional, but the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reached the opposite conclusion last month. The coalition of states is asking the 5th Circuit to disagree with the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

Attorney General Paxton was joined on his friend-of-the-court brief with the 5th Circuit by his counterparts from Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia along with former Maine Governor Paul R. LePage.

Texas originally challenged the constitutionality of the CFPB and its Arbitration Rule in October 2017, filing a multistate coalition brief with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. A month later, President Trump and Congress rescinded the rule. Attorney General Paxton also led a coalition of states with several friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the president’s authority to appoint an acting CFPB director.

AG Paxton’s Child Exploitation Unit Arrests San Patricio County Man for Possession of Child Pornography

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) of his office arrested 19-year-old Benito Juarez, of Gregory, Texas, on two counts of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony.

Investigators from the attorney general’s office were alerted to Juarez by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which received multiple tips that Juarez uploaded child pornography to an online account.

During the execution of a search warrant of his home, investigators found files of child pornography on Juarez’s cell phone, including an image of a female child victim. He admitted to investigators that he downloaded, possessed and viewed child pornography.

Attorney General Paxton’s office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online. The CEU proactively seeks out and arrests predators who commit crimes against children using technology and online sources.

Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks our children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their children’s safety.

If you suspect someone is producing or downloading child pornography you can report it to NCMEC. For more information on cyber safety, please visit: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/cyber-safety/.

Gregg County Conducts Child Support Roundup

Gregg County Sherriff’s Department and Longview Police Department arrest 22 parents for failure to pay child support

LONGVIEWGregg County Sherriff’s Department and Longview Police Department led a child support roundup that started on Monday, March 11, 2019.

They arrested 6 Gregg County parents who violated court orders requiring them to pay child support. The sweep was conducted in conjunction with the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division.

“It is the fundamental and moral responsibility of every parent to provide for their children,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “I commend everyone involved in holding those who attempt to evade child support accountable. Their efforts help ensure better care, better lives, and brighter futures for Texas children.”

The dedicated men and women of the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department and Longview Police Department worked tirelessly to track down parents who are wanted for contempt of court because of their refusal to pay child support.

They dispatched a total of six teams of law enforcement officers to locate and arrest the noncompliant parents before they had a chance to leave their homes for the day.

Child Support Division investigators from the Attorney General’s Office assisted in the effort by providing logistical assistance and helping to locate missing parents.

Delinquent parents arrested on civil warrants face up to six months in jail. Cash bonds posted by delinquent parents seeking release from jail are paid to the custodial parents and children who are owed back child support.

Parents who have fallen behind on their child support payments – but are not subject to warrants for their arrest – should immediately contact the Attorney General’s Child Support Division at (800) 252-8014 to make payment arrangements.

Notification of Opinion

REQUEST FOR OPINION RQ-0251-KP: Authority of county law enforcement to enforce county weight regulations on county roads

OPINION SUMMARY KP-0245: Following analogous judicial and attorney general opinions, a court would likely conclude that one statewide weight enforcement framework exists under Transportation Code chapters 621 and 251. Thus, the authority granted to a constable or deputy constable under Transportation Code section 251.153 is identical to the authority described by Transportation Code section 621.402.

Construing Transportation Code subsection 621.402( e )( 1 ), and the Department of Transportation’s rule implementing it as a qualification to Transportation Code subsection251.153(b), a court would likely conclude that a local law enforcement officer such as a constable or deputy constable must be certified by the Department to enforce weight restrictions, even if he or she enforces those restrictions only on county roads.

Similarly, construing Transportation Code subsection 621.402(e)(2)(B) as a qualification to Transportation Code subsection 25 l.153(b ), a court would likely conclude that the Department may revoke a constable’s authorization to weigh vehicles granted by a county commissioners court.

AG Paxton Files Brief Asking 5th Circuit to Allow Texas to Proceed with Defunding of Planned Parenthood

AUSTIN –  Ahead of a hearing the week of May 13, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief with the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, asking it to hold that individual Medicaid recipients cannot use lawsuits to force taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.

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

During oral argument before the three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit last June, Attorney General Paxton’s legal team recounted the raw, unedited footage depicting employees of Planned Parenthood admitting that Planned Parenthood officials had violated federal law and medical ethical standards by performing abortions to obtain fetal tissue for medical research and manipulating the abortion procedure to get more intact fetal cadavers.

In his brief, Attorney General Paxton told the 5th Circuit that Planned Parenthood had a right to challenge the termination through state administrative proceedings, but it chose not to do so.

Instead, it enlisted a handful of patients as plaintiffs and filed a federal lawsuit. However, as the brief argues, the Medicaid Act does now allow individuals to challenge a state agency’s determination that a service provider is not “qualified” under the Act.

“We’re confident that our reading of the law is correct and that the full 5th Circuit will rule that individual plaintiffs should be dismissed from this lawsuit. These taxpayer resources should be used to provide healthcare to the most vulnerable among us, not defend lawsuits from Medicaid recipients who would prefer to do business with Planned Parenthood,” Attorney General Paxton said.

In January, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit unanimously lifted the district court’s injunction, ruling that it applied the wrong legal standard.

But the panel also ruled that the individuals in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit could bring their suit based on prior precedent, which the concurring opinion requested the full court reconsider by rehearing the case.

The full court granted rehearing on its own motion in a February order.

View a copy of the brief here.

AG Paxton Applauds President Trump’s Nomination of Texas Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Brantley Starr to a U.S. District Court in Dallas

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today commended President Trump’s nomination of current Texas Deputy First Assistant Attorney General Brantley Starr to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.

“Brantley Starr is a brilliant attorney, a dedicated public servant and a trusted legal advisor on my executive team. Because he has such a stellar career record of serving Texas by standing up for the rule of law with professionalism and integrity, I knew this day was inevitable,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Although I will be sad to lose his expertise and counsel, I’m thrilled for Brantley and his family and I thank him for his service to the state of Texas. Brantley will make an outstanding federal judge.”

Starr is a native of Abilene and attended Abilene Christian University. After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, he clerked for Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, then served as assistant solicitor general under Ted Cruz.

Starr practiced commercial and appellate litigation at King & Spalding, L.L.P., and as staff attorney to Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.

He returned to the Texas attorney general’s office in 2015 as deputy attorney general for legal counsel (primarily supervising the Opinion Committee and the other transactional divisions) before his promotion to deputy first assistant attorney general (where he also oversees the office’s civil and criminal litigation).

Starr represents President Trump’s eighth confirmed or pending nomination to a court involving a former or current staffer of the Texas attorney general’s office.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, James Ho, Kyle Duncan and Andrew Oldham were confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last year.

In January, the president nominated former Texas Deputy Solicitor General Sean Jordan to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Plano; he renominated former Deputy First Assistant David Morales to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and current Texas Deputy Solicitor General Cam Barker  to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Notification Of Opinion

REQUEST FOR OPINION RQ-0249-KP: Whether the city attorney and city administrator are local public officials subject to chapter 171 of the Local Government Code.

OPINION SUMMARY KP-0244: Section 171.004 of the Local Government Code prohibits a “local public official” from participating in a vote or decision involving property in which the official has a substantial interest when it is reasonably foreseeable that an action on the matter will have a special economic effect on the value of the property. Because the city attorney and a city administrator at issue do not possess authority to vote or make a decision on a proposed agreement as described, they are not subject to the requirements of section 171.004 of the Local Government Code with respect to that agreement.

AG Paxton Obtains Restitution for Texans Victimized by Computer Tech Support Scam

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that his office reached a final settlement with the three operators of a tech support scam who tricked consumers into buying expensive and unnecessary computer repairs.

The settlement is in conjunction with a nationwide sweep that Attorney General Paxton’s office helped lead, targeting fraudsters who engaged in tech support scams and other elder fraud cases.

The settlement by Attorney General Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division permanently closes eight implicated businesses, provides restitution to the victims and includes a large civil penalty intended to deter future illegal conduct by the defendants and anyone else thinking about engaging in such a scam.

“The lesson here is that if you take advantage of Texans, you risk incurring the legal wrath of my office’s Consumer Protection Division,” Attorney General Paxton said. “In this case, we’ve held accountable the owners and operators of multiple companies that used deceptive scare tactics to dupe Texans out of their hard-earned money. We’ve put them out of business – and spared other Texans from getting ripped off.”

Under terms of the deal, more than $150,000 in restitution will be returned to victims of the tech support scam, with priority to consumers who filed complaints prior to the settlement.

The funds will come from a court-ordered asset freeze obtained by Attorney General Paxton’s office when the lawsuit was filed in a 2017.

The settlement strictly prohibits Dilip Bose, Ritika Arora and Mohit Arora from ever advertising or selling any tech support service in the future.

It also imposes a $10 million judgment against those individuals, which the state will only collect if they violate the terms of the agreement. The three individuals are required within 30 days to dissolve their companies: AMD Tech Solutions LLC, Com Connect It Services LLC, Escutcheon Technologies, LLC, HPC Techs LLC, Texas Tech Connect, LLC, The Rhombus Techs LLC, VAP Techs LLC, and WAP IT Services, LLC.

In carrying out their scheme, the defendants allegedly used pop-up messages designed to look like security warnings delivered to consumers by their internet browser or operating system.

The messages tricked consumers into believing that a reputable tech company detected viruses or hacks to their computers.

When consumers called the number displayed in the message for help, they were talked into allowing remote access to their computers, then duped by fake diagnostic tests that scared them into paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to fix nonexistent problems.

Attorney General Paxton’s office, in coordination with the National Association of Attorneys General, worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and other regulators to help combat tech support scams.

The settlement announced today by Attorney General Paxton comes on the heels of another lawsuit filed by his office against a tech support scam.

Just last week, his Consumer Protection Division obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against the owners of other tech support companies that generated $11 million in revenue by taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

Texans who believe they are victims of a scam can file an online complaint with the attorney general’s office at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/file-consumer-complaint.

The Federal Trade Commission provides consumers and businesses with tips on how to spot and avoid losing money to tech support scams at  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams.

AG Paxton’s Child Exploitation Unit Arrests Beeville Pizza Delivery Man for Online Solicitation of a Minor

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) of his office arrested 24-year-old Juan Salazar, of Beeville, Texas, for online solicitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.

The case was referred to Attorney General Paxton’s office by authorities in New Hampshire, who had information that Salazar solicited nude photos from a 12-year-old girl living there.

CEU investigators obtained a search warrant for Salazar’s home in Beeville for Online Solicitation of a Minor and Possession of Child Pornography.

Investigators confiscated numerous digital storage devices for examination by the Digital Forensics Unit of the attorney general’s office.

During an interview, Salazar, who works as a local pizza delivery driver, admitted communicating in a sexual manner with several child victims.

Following his arrest, Salazar was taken to the Bee County Jail without incident. He is scheduled to appear before a magistrate today.

Attorney General Paxton’s office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online. The CEU proactively seeks out and arrests predators who commit crimes against children using technology and online sources.

Attorney General Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks our children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their children’s safety.

If you suspect someone is producing or downloading child pornography you can report it to NCMEC. For more information on cyber safety, please visit: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/cyber-safety/.


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