Appeals court shields Texas Attorney General Paxton from testifying in abortion-related case

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a rally featuring former President Donald Trump on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Robstown, Texas. (AP Photo/Nick Wagner) Nick Wagner/AP

Appeals court shields Texas Attorney General Paxton from testifying in abortion-related case

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The Louisiana-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit gave Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) a major victory Tuesday when it shielded him from testifying in an abortion-related case, overturning a lower court order that was highly critical of his conduct as a public official.

A three-judge panel on the appeals court, all of which were appointed by Republican presidents, blocked the lower court order requiring Paxton to testify in a case brought by a group of nonprofit abortion funds that sought to aid Texans with such procedures in states where abortions are more accessible.

FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS TEXAS AG TO TESTIFY IN ABORTION CASE AFTER FLEEING SUBPOENA

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman reversed his decision after previously ruling Paxton did not need to testify, determining the attorney general could clarify statements he made that led abortion funds to fear prosecution by his office and cease providing support to Texans.

But on Tuesday, U.S. Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote that because Paxton is a public figure with “greater duties and time constraints than other witnesses,” ordering him to testify for a deposition amounted to an undue burden, according to the appeals court’s 13-page opinion.

Plaintiffs alleged that Paxton and members of the Texas Freedom Caucus in the state House of Representatives signaled through direct communication to abortion funds that any person or groups who aid someone in obtaining such procedures out of state are subject to prosecution.

Paxton, who won reelection to a third term last week, has said publicly that whether an abortion procedure happens in “Denver or Dallas, in Las Cruces or Lamesa,” anyone violating the Lone Star State’s abortion ban is subject to prosecution. Despite his public comments, Paxton and state attorneys have said in court filings that prosecutors do not have the authority to bring such challenges against abortion funds, which provide financial and logistical assistance to individuals who lack the means to afford an abortion.

Duncan also noted that any clarity needed by the plaintiffs about the state’s policy could be done through representatives of Paxton, adding that “Paxton’s personal ‘thoughts and statements’ have no bearing on his office’s legal authority to enforce Texas’s abortion laws or any other law.”

The legal dispute surrounding Paxton has gone on since late September. One day before Pitman was slated to hear testimony from plaintiffs over the case, Paxton fled his home in a truck driven by his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, to avoid being served a subpoena, according to a sworn affidavit.

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It is not immediately clear whether plaintiffs will appeal the circuit court decision or when Pitman will release his ruling in the case.

The Washington Examiner contacted an attorney for the plaintiffs.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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