According to The Dallas Morning News, the state of Texas will pay more than $500 an hour for the lead attorney defending Attorney General Ken Paxton against claims that he retaliated against whistleblowers.
The agency brought in outside attorneys from the Houston firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith to handle the high-profile lawsuit that four former senior staffers filed against Paxton last month. The employees allege they were fired because they accused the attorney general of abusing his office to help real estate developer Nate Paul, a friend and campaign donor.
The office of the attorney general will pay William Helfand, the lead attorney, $540 an hour, according to the contract. An associate attorney and paralegal will make $350 and $215 an hour, respectively. The agency will also reimburse the lawyers for travel, meals, lodging and other expenses associated with building Paxton’s defense.
Paxton has denied the accusations that he misused his office to help Paul, stating he fired the employees due to their “own misconduct, lack of competence, and/or disloyalty to the Office.” This year, Paxton has personally intervened at least four times on a range of legal matters before his agency that involved or helped Paul.
The report noted that eight senior members of Paxton’s staff raised concerns about the interventions with law enforcement — including the attorney general’s then-second in command.
Five were fired and three resigned. The FBI is now investigating Paxton and Paul’s ties, according to The Associated Press.
The report also noted that Paxton is no stranger to legal troubles:
The whopping hourly rate for Helfand and his associate counsel is higher than the $300 an hour sought by the special prosecutors who have been pursuing unrelated criminal fraud charges against Paxton for more than five years. Paxton’s lawyers in that case, which has yet to go to trial, successfully argued to stop paying the prosecutor, arguing their hourly rate violated state law and was egregiously high.
In his five years as attorney general, Paxton has also been investigated for criminal conduct relating to real estate transactions in McKinney, investigated for bribery and charged with securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The bribery investigation was closed without charges, a grand jury voted to take no action against Paxton in the real estate case and a judge twice threw out the federal fraud charges against him.
Paxton recently filed a lawsuit of his own in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results in four battleground states won by Joe Biden, the newspaper noted. However, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit last week.
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