JudicialStatewide NewsAbbott, Patrick Ask Texas Supreme Court to Take Up Whistleblower Suit Against Paxton

The governor and lieutenant governor asked the court to consider an argument that the Whistleblower Act does not apply to elected officials.
April 26, 2022
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Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick submitted briefs to the Supreme Court of Texas urging justices to consider a petition from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) regarding the lawsuit filed under the Texas Whistleblower Act against Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Four former senior employees of the OAG filed the suit shortly after they were fired or resigned from the positions in light of criminal allegations they made against Paxton in 2020.

The OAG has argued that protections under the Whistleblower Act do not apply against elected officers such as the attorney general, governor, or lieutenant governor.

A trial court in Travis County and Texas’ Third Court of Appeals both ruled against the OAG’s argument to allow the case to proceed, but in January, the OAG appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

“The petition addresses matters of statewide importance, as well as separation-of-powers questions that warrant review by this Court,” wrote Patrick’s attorney in his brief. “Regardless of the outcome of the case, this case relates to the interpretation of a Texas law, and the people of Texas deserve that a case of this importance be considered and reviewed by the highest court in the state.”

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Likewise, an attorney for the governor noted that the lawsuit “involves the governance powers” of a statewide elected official.

“Cases of this nature are most appropriately decided by a court with statewide jurisdiction, not by a regional court like the Austin Court of Appeals,” wrote Abbott’s attorney in the brief. “Accordingly, this Court should grant the petition for review.”

In the years since the allegations against Paxton were brought to light, Abbott and Patrick have remained largely silent on the controversy clouding the OAG.

The filings this week do not take a position on how they believe the justices should rule in the case but show that they are keeping an eye on the outcome of the lawsuit.

If the Supreme Court decides to take up the case, it could delay trial court proceedings on the merits even further — or altogether end it, depending on how the court rules.

But a ruling would also provide legal clarity on how the Whistleblower Act affects elected officials such as the governor and lieutenant governor, something that could expedite legal proceedings should a similar situation arise in another office.

Paxton received a competitive primary challenge from three other well-known Texas Republicans — Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman — but both Patrick and Abbott stayed out of the race.

On election day, Abbott declined to say who he voted for in the race, noting, “I’m going to let the voters decide who they want to support.”

Patrick, however, endorsed Paxton after the primary election led to a runoff between the incumbent and Bush.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.