(The Center Square) – Two of the most prominent attorneys from Houston will be the lead prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, 82 and 81, respectively, “bring decades of experience in high-profile criminal and civil matters,” Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, who chairs the House General Investigating Committee, said when announcing their appoinment last week. Combined, DeGuerin said they had over 100 years of legal experience.
The House impeached Paxton by a vote of 121-23 late last month after the GIC proposed 20 articles of impeachment.
Murr said he was introducing “two outstanding attorneys who are going to present the impeachment case in the Texas Senate on behalf of the board of managers,” referring to the 12 members chosen by Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, to make the case against Paxton.
Both DeGuerin and Hardin spoke about their beliefs about Paxton's guilt and their approach to the trial.
While DeGuerin said, “no one wants a crook in the system,” referring to Paxton, he also said, the articles of impeachment “are accusations. The accusations have been made, so now let the evidence begin.”
“This is not about punishing Mr. Paxton,” DeGuerin said. “It's about protecting the public, protecting the citizens of Texas … the people of the state of Texas are entitled to know whether their top cop is a crook.”
Hardin said he believed Paxton is guilty, that Paxton tried to intimidate people, and that he was “shocked at the details and the facts of the allegations” made by those interviewed by GIC-hired investigators. He also said what's at stake isn't about “a one-time misuse of office” but about “a pattern of misconduct and misuse of office.” He also said the allegations against Paxton are “ten times worse than what has been made public” and “it will blow your mind.”
Hardin said the process would involve a “full public hearing that allows both sides to present the evidence,” which would follow rules created by the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick created a committee that is developing the rules governing the trial, which will be publicized June 20. He also said a trial will take place no later than August 28.
“Impeachment is not about punishing the offender, it is about protecting and serving the government and the public,” Hardin said. “Impeachment, for instance, is not a criminal trial in the sense that the Texas Constitution makes clear if criminal authorities think there's a criminal offense, they still can proceed with investigations … in the criminal domain. But what impeachment is about is whether to remove that public official who is abusing their process while a determination is made, and that's it. This process doesn't impose criminal penalties.”
If Paxton were to be convicted by the Senate, he would be permanently removed from office and barred from ever running for office in Texas again.
After he was impeached, Paxton was immediately suspended, and last week, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed former Secretary of State John Scott as the interim attorney general.
Six of Paxton's employees have taken leaves of absence to defend their former boss at trial. One of them, Division Chief of the General Litigation Division Chris Hilton, attempted to present evidence to the GIC, which refused to interview Paxton or anyone from his staff as part of its investigation. Hilton told reporters last Thursday that the committee was engaged in an “illegal investigation” and a report it issued was “filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations.”
The Texas GOP, Paxton and others argue the impeachment didn't follow basic due process, was political, illegal, unethical and unjust.
An outside law firm also found that Paxton didn't break any laws or violate procedure.
DeGuerin began his career as an assistant District Attorney in Harris County. He has defended high profile clients, including former Republican Texas legislators like U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but is most well-known for defending David Koresh and Robert Durst.
Hardin has also defended famous, high profile Texans, including Enron accountant Arthur Andersen, former MLB pitcher Roger Clemens, Lakewood Church's Victoria Osteen, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, among many others.