Ken Paxton Case Officially Sent to Harris County, Triggering Search for New Judge

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Check back here for new information.AUSTIN — Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal case has been officially transferred to Houston, triggering the search for a new judge. In an order signed Friday morning, Judge George Gallagher sent Paxton's case file from Collin to Harris County. He also vacated four rulings made recently, including setting a September trial date and ordering Collin County to pay the prosecutors pursuing the criminal charges against Paxton. Gallagher was forced to undo these decisions after the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas ruled he must aside by June 9. Siding with the attorney general, the appeals court said Gallagher could not preside over the case after he moved it to Harris County because all parties (namely Paxton) did not agree to his continued involvement.Gallagher did not respond to requests for comment on his removal Friday, saying only his order to move the case to Houston "was entered to comply with the order of the 5th Court of Appeals order dated May 30."The move will now trigger the search for a new judge in Harris County. On Thursday, Harris County District Courts Administrator Clay Bowman told The Dallas Morning News that Administrative Judge Robert Schaffer would be taking the lead on finding Gallagher's replacement."Our local administrative judge is the person who will be handling, sort of shepherding the assignment of the case," said Bowman, who added Olen Underwood, the regional presiding judge for Harris and 34 other counties in southeast Texas, would likely also be involved.Usually, Harris County assigns judges for criminal cases using the "Automated Random Assignment System," a kind of massive bingo cage containing 220 balls that spits out assignments. It's unclear whether this same system will be used to choose Gallagher's replacement or whether Schaffer and Underwood will hand-choose a successor.There are nearly two dozen criminal district judges in Harris County who could be assigned the case. Nearly half are Democrats. These judges, who are locally elected, have received thousands of dollars in donations from all three prosecutors and two of Paxton's top attorneys in the past.  Continue reading...

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