TEXAS, USA — Ken Paxton's Impeachment trial will begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. in the Texas Senate Chambers and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will service as the judge. What happens after that is anyone's guess.
There are, of course, charges that Paxton will face, and attorneys that will service as prosecutors and defense counsel, but there is also a lot of gray area for lawmakers. Texas has only impeached three officials in the last 200 years and lawmakers will be dealing with guidelines provided by the Texas Constitution instead of strict rules.
An impeachment trial does not specifically mirror a civil trial or a criminal trial and is instead it's own political process. The trial does not impose criminal penalties but instead simply decides if Paxton will be removed from office.
The Texas House has already impeached Paxton with a 121 to 23 vote and prosecution was handled by a House Board of Managers. That board selected Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin to lead the prosecution in the Senate.
Quorumreport.com editor Scott Braddock told KENS 5 those attorneys will likely handle the prosecution on the Senate floor and the House Board of Managers will stay out of the fray.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick will have a great deal of power in the trial as the presiding judge and will be aided by former state appeals court judge Lana Myers to help him navigate the trial.
"In the case of this trial it was seen by the Senate as a priority to have the Lt. Governor have someone there with him to make those decisions in real time on different motions and objections that will come up as witness testimony is playing out and evidence is offered," Braddock said.
There is little precedent for the procedures in a Texas impeachment trial so Patrick will have the final word on many issues in the trial.
Ken Paxton is being represented by Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell.
Paxton is facing 20 articles of impeachment, which were filed on May 29, 2023. Not all of the articles are criminal in nature, but Braddock said the articles don't need to be in order to remove Paxton from office.
"It doesn't have to be criminal for it to be viewed by office holders as corrupt and removing the man from office," Braddock said.
The articles include allegations that Paxton "caused employees of his office" to prepare a legal opinion to benefit donor Nate Paul by avoiding "impending foreclosure sales," allegations that Paxton engaged out outside attorney to "conduct and investigation into a baseless complaint...in an effort to benefit Nate Paul," allegations that Paxton terminated employees "in retaliation for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct," and bribery allegations among others.
Braddock said the senators will likely wade through around three weeks of testimony on all the articles before taking a vote on whether or not to impeach Paxton.
The vote will need a two-thirds majority of present senators to successfully remove Paxton. Braddock said the "present" element is an important distinction because it means attendance directly affects the vote. If all 31 senators are present the impeachment would require 21 votes. If one senator is missing it would require only 20 votes and so on.
It's also an important distinction because Ken Paxton's wife, Angela Paxton, won't be able to vote but will be able to be present and therefore increase the vote threshold with her presence.
"She can sort of tip the scale one way or the other depending on which way she wants it to go. If she's not there, that would mean the thresholds would drop to 20," Braddock said. "The rule is literally whether they are on the (senate) floor."
If Paxton is impeached by a two-thirds vote, the Senate will then take a second vote to decide whether or not to bar him from being elected from any state office in the future.
Finally, Braddock stressed that there is still plenty of gray area in the proceedings and there could be plenty of unforeseen turns before the trial is over.
"Because there have only been three of these, literally no one is an expert on how it should work," Braddock said. "In Austin people are going to the Texas Constitution...dusting it off and seeing what it says about all this."
The Texas Constitutions Article 15, Covering impeachment, can be found here on page 164. It's only two pages long.