87th LegislatureElections 2022IssuesState SenateState Senators Ask Court of Criminal Appeals to Revisit Decision Against Paxton on Ballot Fraud Prosecutions

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed an amicus brief with 13 of his Republican colleagues supporting the motion for a rehearing.
January 20, 2022
Fourteen Republicans state senators have filed an amicus brief in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals asking the court to reconsider its December ruling barring the attorney general from prosecuting alleged election crimes on his own.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a motion for a rehearing in the case.

The court, which is made up of nine Republican judges, opined in an 8 to 1 decision that the statute granting the attorney general the ability to initiate his own ballot fraud prosecutions is unconstitutional from a separation of powers perspective.

In a press release, Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) described the arguments he and his colleagues made in the brief.

“The amicus makes three points. First, there is no issue of separation of powers between the Attorney General and district attorneys. Second, not allowing the Attorney General to prosecute these cases dilutes our legislative authority. Third, the Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to write laws that detect and punish voter fraud,” Bettencourt said.

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The case began with Paxton’s prosecution of Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens, who was indicted on charges of tampering with a government record and making or accepting a contribution in violation of Texas election laws. Stephens has not been convicted and is presumed not guilty unless the state proves otherwise.

In Texas, there are two courts of last resort — the state Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. The latter has the final say in appeals of criminal cases against adults.

This week, the Republican Party of Texas announced its own amicus brief supporting the motion for a rehearing. The party contended that the Court of Criminal Appeals “broke with over a century of Texas Supreme Court precedent” and noted that the attorney general has had the authority to prosecute election crimes since 1951.

The court’s decision weakened the Election Integrity Protection Act, which presumed the attorney general’s ability to prosecute election fraud.

The parties to the brief include Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Brian Birdwell (R-Waco), Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Louis Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Jane Nelson (R- Flower Mound), Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), Drew Springer (R-Muenster), and Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood).

A copy of the amicus brief filed by Sen. Bettencourt and his colleagues can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."