Dallas Court Rules Ken Paxton Prosecutors Can Continue to Get Paid — for Now

AUSTIN - The three lawyers prosecuting Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton can continue to get paid, at least for now, a Dallas appeals court decided this week.For more than a year, local real estate developer Jeffory Blackard has waged a legal battle to keep the prosecutors from getting paid. Blackard alleges Collin County, which is on the hook to fund the prosecution, is misusing taxpayer money by agreeing to pay $300 an hour to the attorneys overseeing the criminal fraud case against Paxton.On Wednesday, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas disagreed with Blackard and threw out his suit. But it's not dead yet, his attorneys said."Mr. Blackard will continue to pursue his claim until some Texas court agrees to take it up," Edward Greim told The Dallas Morning News in an emailed statement. "We respectfully disagree with the Court of Appeals' decision."Collin County has been billed $510,000 for the prosecutors' work so far. The latest invoice was submitted just last week, and the commissioners court is scheduled to discuss whether to pay the bill on Jan. 30.Ironically, Greim added, one reason the appeals court threw out his client's suit because there was no payment pending when they heard the case. Now that there is another invoice submitted, this one for $205,000 for more than a year's work, Blackard will revive his challenge.While Blackard has railed against the prosecutors' $300-an-hour pay, his own suit has cost the county and its taxpayers more than $106,000 in attorneys fees and court costs. Paxton's July 2015 indictments have riled Republicans in North Texas, splitting conservatives between those who want to see the case go to trial and those who say the allegations against the attorney general are nothing more than a political witchhunt.The disagreement has extended to the commissioners court, which approves the county's budget. Its five members have questioned the $300-an-hour fee for the prosecutors and debated whether or how to cut off payment numerous times.Blackard has been at the center of this drama. He's sent letters to local officials imploring them to support his lawsuit, and appeared before the commissioners regularly to make his case. Jeff May, the county auditor who cuts the prosecutors' checks, said he will continue to pay the prosecutors as his job requires regardless of whether Blackard continues to sue the county: "It's not going to change anything I'm doing on my part."  Continue reading...

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