|51st Attorney General of Texas|
Assumed office |
January 5, 2015
|Preceded by||Greg Abbott|
|Member of the Texas Senate|
from the 8th district
January 2013 – January 4, 2015
|Preceded by||Florence Shapiro|
|Succeeded by||Van Taylor|
|Member of the Texas House of Representatives|
from the 70th district
January 2003 – January 2013
|Preceded by||David Counts|
|Succeeded by||Scott Sanford|
Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr.|
December 23, 1962
Minot, North Dakota, U.S.
Baylor University (BA, MBA)|
University of Virginia (JD)
Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. (born December 23, 1962) is an American lawyer and politician who currently serves as the Attorney General of Texas since January 2015. Paxton won election to the state's top law enforcement job in November 2014 as a champion of the Tea Party movement and conservative principles.
Paxton was born in Minot Air Force Base while his father was stationed in the United States Air Force. His parents and their three children lived in a trailer, often without air conditioning, parked outside wherever his father was temporarily stationed. At various times, they lived in Florida, New York, North Carolina, California, and Oklahoma. As a youth, he wanted to play football, but his father would not let him play for fear of injury. A lifelong football fan, Paxton carried a jersey autographed by Bill Bates, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. Bates later was named Paxton's campaign treasurer.
At the age of twelve, Paxton nearly lost an eye in a game of hide-and-seek; a misdiagnosis led to long-term problems with his vision. As a result, his good eye is green; his damaged one, brown and droopy. He was again seriously injured while he was a student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. An elbow to his face in a game of basketball shattered the bones around his already damaged right eye. At Baylor, he majored in psychology and was a member of the Baylor University Chamber of Commerce. In 1985, he was elected Student Body President of the Baylor Student Government Association.
Paxton received a psychology degree in 1985 from Baylor University, where he served as the student-body president for the undergraduate class. He continued his education at the Hankamer School of Business, earning a Master of Business Administration in 1986. Paxton then worked for two years as a management consultant before returning to school in 1988. He enrolled at University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 1991 earned his Juris Doctor degree.
Paxton then joined the firm of Strasburger & Price, L.L.P, where he worked from 1991 to 1995. He then went to work for J.C. Penney Company, Inc., as in-house legal counsel. In 2002, he left J.C. Penney to start his own firm specializing in estate planning, probate, real estate and general business matters and to run for office in Texas House District 70.
A resident of McKinney, Texas, Paxton serves or has served on numerous local organizations and councils. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Allen, Frisco, and McKinney. He is a director of the Centennial Medical Center. He is a member and former director of the Collin County Bar Association, a member of the Dallas Estate Planning Council, director at Marketplace Ministries, and a member of Rotary International in McKinney. Paxton is a charter member of the nondenominational Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, founded in 1998 by senior pastor Chuck Swindoll.
Texas House of Representatives
On March 12, 2002, Paxton ran for his first nomination in the Republican primary for the Texas House in District 70 against five opponents. He captured 39.45% of the vote and moved into a runoff with Bill Vitz, whom he then defeated with 64% of the vote. He went on to face Fred Lusk (D) and Robert Worthington (L) for the newly redistricted open seat. On November 4, 2002, Paxton secured his first win with 28,012 votes to Lusk's 7,074 votes and Worthington's 600 votes.
On November 4, 2004, Paxton faced a challenge from Democrat Martin Woodward after running unopposed for the Republican nomination. Paxton captured 76% of the vote, or 58,520 votes compared to 18,451 votes for Woodward.
On November 4, 2006, Paxton won his third term in the Texas House of Representatives, defeating Rick Koster (D) and Robert Virasin (L). Paxton received 30,062 votes to Koster's 12,265 votes and Virasin's 1,222 votes.
Paxton ran unopposed for re-election in both the Republican primary and the general election in 2010. On November 11, 2010, entering his last term as a state representative, Paxton announced that he would run for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives against Joe Straus of District 121 in Bexar County and fellow Republican Warren Chisum of District 88 in Pampa, Texas. Paxton said:
On Election Day , we witnessed a monumental shift in the political climate, and I believe that historic opportunities demand bold action in defense of our conservative values. Voters across Texas sent a clear message that they favor leadership dedicated to protecting our freedoms and fighting government growth. Texans have provided us with an historic mandate, and they expect us to use this mandate to honestly advance conservative principles and not simply protect the status quo. These goals can only be accomplished with a conservative Speaker.
Straus was elected to his second term as Speaker and was re-elected in 2013, 2015, and 2017.
Political action committees
Paxton was one of six Texas House candidates endorsed by HuckPAC, the official political action committee of Mike Huckabee.
Paxton received endorsements and "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association and its state affiliate, the Texas State Rifle Association.
Past committee assignments
- Land & Resource Management Committee, Texas House
- Ways & Means Committee, Texas House
- Fiscal Stability, Texas House
Texas State Senate
Paxton was elected to the Texas State Senate in 2012, and served for two years, until January 2015, when his term as Attorney General began.
Attorney General of Texas
Paxton led a three-candidate field in the Republican primary held on March 4, 2014, polling 566,114 votes (44.4%). State Representative Dan Branch of Dallas County received 426,595 votes (33.5 percent). Eliminated in the primary was Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman of Austin, who polled the remaining 281,064 (22.1 percent).
Paxton faced Dan Branch in the runoff election on May 27, 2014, and won with 465,395 votes (63.63 percent). Branch received 265,963 votes (36.36 percent).
Paxton took office on January 5, 2015. Paxton's campaign raised $945,000 in the first half of 2016, leaving Paxton with just under $3 million in his campaign account for a potential 2018 re-election bid.
Paxton won the attorney general's election without the endorsement of a single Texas newspaper. He generally avoids reporters, most of whom he considers biased against him.
Obama executive orders
Paxton led a coalition of 26 states challenging President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) executive action. According to The New York Times, Obama's executive actions "would protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and allow them to work indefinitely in the country legally." Paxton argued that the president should not be allowed to "unilaterally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people's representatives." The Supreme Court heard the case, United States v. Texas, and issued a split 4-4 ruling in the case in June 2016. Because of the split ruling, a 2015 lower-court ruling invalidating Obama's plan was left in place. In July 2017, Paxton led a group of Republican Attorneys General and Idaho Governor Butch Otter in threatening the Donald J. Trump administration that they would litigate if the president did not terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that had been put into place by president Barack Obama. The other Attorneys General who joined in making the threats to Trump included Steve Marshall of Alabama, Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Doug Peterson of Nebraska, Alan Wilson of South Carolina, and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia.
Trump executive orders
In 2017, Paxton voiced support for the application of eminent domain to obtain right-of-way along the Rio Grande in Texas for construction of the border wall advocated by President Donald Trump as a means to curtail illegal immigration. Paxton said that private landowners must receive a fair price when property is taken for the pending construction. He said that the wall serves "a public purpose providing safety to people not only along the border, but to the entire nation. ... I want people to be treated fairly, so they shouldn’t just have their land taken from them," but there must be just compensation.
In 2017, Paxton joined thirteen other state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court briefs in defense of both Trump's first and second executive orders on travel and immigration. In filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court, Paxton argued that the order—which places a 90-day ban on the issuance of visas to traveled from six designated majority-Muslim countries, imposes a 120-day halt on the admission of refugees to the U.S., and caps annual refugee admissions to 50,000 people—is constitutionally and legally valid.
In May 2017, Paxton filed a preemptive lawsuit designed to ascertain the constitutionality of the new Texas ban on sanctuary cities, known as SB 4, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. The suit asks the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas to clarify whether the law is at odds with the Fourth and Fourteenth constitutional amendments or is not in conflict with some other federal law. Paxton said that the measure "is constitutional, lawful and a vital step in securing our borders. It guarantees cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement to protect Texans. Unfortunately, some municipalities and law enforcement agencies are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government and claim that SB 4 is unconstitutional." Among those opposed to the measure are the police chiefs and sheriffs of some of the largest jurisdictions in Texas. Critics call the ban legalization of discrimination against minorities, and suits against the legislation are expected to be filed.
Challenge to the Clean Power Plan
Paxton has mounted a legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan, which is President Obama’s "state-by-state effort to fight climate change by shifting away from coal power to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable resources." Paxton says the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to "force Texas to change how we regulate energy production" through an "unprecedented expansion of federal authority." The Clean Power Plan would require Texas to cut an annual average of 51 million tons of emissions, down 21 percent from 2012 levels. Paxton says the required reductions would cost the state jobs, push electricity costs too high, and threaten reliability on the electrical grid. Paxton says there is no evidence that the plan will mitigate climate change, and that the EPA lacks the statutory authority to write the state's policies.
Challenge to Department of Labor overtime rule
Paxton is suing the Obama administration over a new rule by the United States Department of Labor which would make five million additional workers eligible for overtime pay. The new rule would mean workers earning up to an annual salary of $47,500 would become eligible for overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per week. Paxton has said the new regulations "may lead to disastrous consequences for our economy." Along with Texas, twenty other states have joined the lawsuit.
In June 2015, after the issuance of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Paxton issued a statement offering moral support for clerks with religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His statement said in part that "numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights."
in 2016, Paxton led a coalition of thirteen states that sought an injunction to block a guidance letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice that interpreted Title IX to require public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that accorded with their gender identity. Paxton wrote in court filings that the Obama administration had "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment" and termed the directive a "gun to the head" that threatens the independence of school districts. The states dropped the suit after the directive was revoked by President Donald Trump.
Challenge to Department of Labor's "Persuader Rule"
Paxton is involved in a legal challenge to a rule by the Department of Labor which forces employers to report any "actions, conduct or communications" undertaken to "affect an employee's decisions regarding his or her representation or collective bargaining rights." Known as the "Persuader Rule," the new regulation went into effect in April 2016. Opponents of the rule say it will prevent employers from speaking on labor issues or seeking legal counsel. In June 2016, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the rule. Paxton called the injunction "a victory for the preservation of the sanctity of attorney-client confidentiality."
Paxton and the other state AGs filed an amicus curiae brief, contending that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey used her office to "tip the scales on a public policy debate, undermine the first Amendment and abuse the office's subpoena power." Healey had launched a probe of ExxonMobil's historical marketing and sale of fossil fuel products, requiring the company to produce 40 years worth of documents regarding fossil fuel products and securities. Healey said the documents would prove that ExxonMobil "knew about the risks of climate change decades ago and fraudulently concealed that knowledge from the public." The amicus brief supported Exxon Mobil's motion for a preliminary injunction. Paxton questioned Healey’s use of law-enforcement authority regarding the global warming controversy, which he called an "ongoing public policy debate of international importance." Paxton described Healey's attempts to obtain historical company records for a public policy debate as a threat to freedom of speech, stating: "The Constitution was written to protect citizens from government witch-hunts that are nothing more than an attempt to suppress speech on an issue of public importance, just because a government official happens to disagree with that particular viewpoint." The brief portrayed climate change as an issue that was still a matter of scientific debate, although in fact the scientific consensus is that the earth is warming and human activity is primarily responsible.
U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general Claude Walker had also issued a subpoena for Exxon's records. Paxton issued a request to intervene in the case, stating: "What is Exxon Mobil’s transgression? Holding a view about climate change that the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands disagrees with. This is about the criminalization of speech and thought." Walker dropped the subpoena in June 2016.
Volkswagen, Apple, and MoneyGram lawsuits
In 2012, Paxton was part of a lawsuit against Apple, charging the company with violating antitrust laws by conspiring with publishers to artificially raise the prices of electronic books. Apple was ordered to pay $400 million to U.S. consumers who paid artificially-inflated prices for e-books, and $20 million to the states in reimbursement for legal costs.
In June 2016, it was announced that Volkswagen would pay the state of Texas $50 million in relation to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Paxton had sued the company in 2015 in connection with the automaker’s admitted use of software that allowed its vehicles to circumvent emissions limits.
Paxton is part of a 21-state lawsuit against the state of Delaware. The lawsuit alleges that MoneyGram gave uncashed checks to the state of Delaware instead of the state where the money order or travelers check was bought. The case has gone directly to the U.S. Supreme Court because it is a dispute among states. Paxton said an audit showed that Delaware owed other states $150 million, and that Delaware unlawfully took possession of uncashed checks instead of sending the checks back to the states where the money orders were purchased. The state of Delaware disputes these claims.
Lawsuit over homestead tax exemptions
In 2015, the Texas State Legislature passed a law implementing property tax reductions by increasing the homestead exemption to $25,000 and prohibiting localities from reducing or repealing any local option homestead exemption already on the books. After this law was passed, 21 school districts reduced or eliminated their local optional homestead exemptions. In 2016, Paxton intervened in a lawsuit challenging the practice of school districts reducing or repealing their local optional homestead exemptions.
Second Amendment lawsuits
In 2016, three University of Texas at Austin professors sued in an effort to ban concealed handguns from campus. The state's campus carry law allows law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. The lawsuit brought by the professors seeks to block the law. Paxton called the lawsuit "frivolous" and said it should be dismissed.
In 2016, Paxton sued the city of Austin to allow license holders to openly carry handguns in city hall.
Paxton has "crusaded against voter fraud" as state attorney general; there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas, although the state's "efforts to enact and enforce the strictest voter ID law in the nation were so plagued by delays, revisions, court interventions and inadequate education that the casting of ballots in the 2016 election was inevitably troubled." Paxton's office is seeking 2016 Texas voting records in an effort to find voter fraud, such as potential voting by non-citizens or in the name of the deceased. This includes individual voting history and application materials for voter registrations. Officials in Bexar County say there have been no major cases of voter fraud in San Antonio. However, the Associated Press reported that the top election official in Bexar County estimates that nearly six hundred affidavits submitted by voters there who declined to present identification should have been declined. Instead, the official said such voters should have been required to cast provisional ballots. AP projected that the overall number who cast improper affidavits as 13,500 in the largest Texas counties. Fort Bend County's top elections official said that these cases are not voter fraud, noting that only those who were registered to vote qualified for an affidavit, and that "poll workers were trained to 'err on the side of letting people use the affidavit instead of denying them the chance to vote.'"
The San Antonio Express-News criticized the state's voter identification law, which Paxton seeks to have reinstated after it was struck down by United States District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christ, who found the measure to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act, and found that it was passed with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. Paxton's office appealed the decision. Appeals continue in the case.
In March 2017, Paxton told The Washington Times that he is convinced that voter fraud exists in Texas: "I know it’s an issue because I deal with it. We just got a conviction on an illegal that voted in an election." Paxton said that local election officials in Texas are not on the lookout for detecting fraud: "They're complicit in allowing it to happen. I guarantee it is happening - whatever people say." Experts stated that there is no reliable evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, and a Texas study of elections over a decade determined that there were about three cases of fraud for every one million votes in the state.
Religion in schools
Paxton "has often criticized what he calls anti-Christian discrimination in Texas schools." In 2015, Paxton opposed an atheist group's legal action seeking a halt to the reading of religious prayers before school board meetings. In December 2016, Paxton gained attention after intervening in a dispute in Killeen, Texas, in which a middle school principal told a nurse's aide to take down a six-foot poster in the school containing a quote from Christian scripture. Paxton sided with the aide, who won in court.
In early 2017 Paxton objected to a Texas school's use of an empty classroom to allow its Muslim students to pray, issuing a press release that claimed that "the high school's prayer room is ... apparently excluding students of other faiths." School officials said that Paxton had never asked them about this assertion, and that the room was a spare room used by faculty and non-Muslim students as well as for multiple activities, from grading papers to Buddhist meditation. The Frisco Independent School District superintendent, in a letter sent in response to Paxton, called his press release "a publicity stunt by the [Office of Attorney General] to politicize a nonissue."
Paxton has defended the State of Texas in a federal lawsuit involving the drawing of Texas's congressional districts. In 2017, a three-judge panel of a U.S. federal court based in San Antonio ruled that the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature drew congressional-district to discriminate against minority voters, and ordered the redrawing of Texas's 35th and 27th congressional districts. Paxton is appealing the ruling, contending that the previous maps were lawful, and vowed to "aggressively defend the maps on all fronts"; U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett criticized the appeal as a "desperate, highly questionable Paxton-Abbott maneuver" coming "after yet another ruling against the state of Texas for intentional discrimination."
In April 2017, Paxton rendered a legal opinion in a dispute between the Texas House and Senate over how to close a pending revenue gap of $2.5 billion. He argued that a Senate proposal to delay payment of a transportation debt would likely be determined in court to be constitutional. State Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound asked for Paxton's opinion. The House, however, was unmoved. House Appropriations Committee chairman John Zerwas of Richmond said that there must be other ways to finance the budget without "spending money twice from state highway funds." Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio compared the Senate proposal to accounting tricks like those of the defunct Enron Corporation of Houston.
State securities-fraud charges
On July 28, 2015, a state grand jury indicted Paxton on three criminal charges: two counts of securities fraud (a first-degree felony) and one count of failing to register with state securities regulators (a third-degree felony). Paxton's indictment marked the first such criminal prosecution of a Texas Attorney General in 32 years since Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox was indicted for bribery in 1983. The complainants in the case are investors Joel Hochberg and Byron Cook, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives. Paxton and Cook, former friends and roommates while serving together in the Texas House, became political adversaries as Paxton staked out a conservative political position while Cook is moderate. While in the Texas House, Cook and Paxton were involved in a variety of investment deals together. The complaint regarding Servergy was filed four years after the business deal was made. Three special prosecutors are leading the state's case.
Prosecutors allege that Paxton, while he was a state legislator, advised investors to fund financial firm Mowery Capital Management and technology firm Servergy without disclosing that he was being paid by the companies. Paxton allegedly raised $840,000 from investors in Servergy without conducting due diligence regarding the company's false claims that its computer servers were highly energy efficient or that it had already made bulk sales. Paxton allegedly solicited these investments from his legal clients, legislative colleagues, and friends, with funding from Paxton and Cook’s investment club making up 25% of all investment Servergy received in 2011. Paxton says he did not receive compensation, and that the 100,000 shares of the company that he received from Servergy's founder were a gift.
Paxton unsuccessfully sought to quash the indictments. This challenge was rejected by the trial judge, the Texas Court of Appeals, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' criminal court of last resort.
In March 2017, District Judge George Gallagher, a Republican from Fort Worth, granted the prosecution's motion for a change of venue, moving the trial to Houston. Gallagher also denied Paxton's motion to dismiss one of the charges against him because of issues which arose about the grand jury. On May 30, 2017, the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas agreed with Paxton that the transfer of Paxton's trial to Houston required assignment of the case to a new judge to replace Judge Gallagher and all orders issued by Judge Gallagher after the change of venue were voided. Paxton's new judge is Democrat Robert Johnson of the 177th District Court in Harris County. Johnson was chosen at random to preside.
Securities and Exchange Commission complaint dismissal with prejudice
On April 11, 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil enforcement action against Paxton in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The SEC's complaint specifically charged Paxton with violating various provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and various provisions (including Rule 10b-5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by defrauding the Servergy investors. Paxton denied the allegations. One of the defendants and Servergy itself reached a separate settlement with the SEC, agreeing to pay $260,000 in penalties.
On October 7, 2016, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III conditionally dismissed the SEC's civil fraud charges, finding the SEC had not alleged Paxton had any legal obligation to inform investors that he was receiving a commission and giving the SEC two weeks to refile with any new allegations. Mazzant said that the SEC was trying to fit a "square peg into a round hole."
On October 22, 2016, the SEC refiled its securities fraud claims against Paxton. The SEC made the additional allegations that Paxton and Cook's investment club required all of its members to accept the same risks on all investments and that it specifically forbade members from making money off investments of other members. The SEC further alleged that Paxton did not properly disclose his Severgy ownership stake on his taxes and that he attempted to conceal the stake by at different times claiming it was his fee for legal services, that it was a gift, and that he had only received it after investing money. Cook later backtracked on these claims, undermining the SEC case against Paxton, when Cook's attorney conceded there was never a "formal investment group" involving Cook and Paxton but rather an "ad hoc arrangement where, from time to time, good friends might invest in the same transaction" with the particular participants varying from transaction to transaction.
On March 2, 2017, Mazzant dismissed the civil securities fraud case against Paxton for a second time on grounds that the attorney general had "no plausible legal duty" to inform investors that he would earn a commission if they purchased stock in a technical company that Paxton represented. With the second dismissal of the case with prejudice, the SEC cannot bring new action on the same claim against Paxton. The dismissal of the SEC case does not have a direct impact on the state criminal case, which remains pending.
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Republican Primary Election, 2002|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2002|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Election, 2002|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Election, 2004|
|Republican||Ken Paxton (inc.)||58,250||76.03|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Election, 2006|
|Republican||Ken Paxton (inc.)||30,062||69.03|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Election, 2008|
|Republican||Ken Paxton (inc.)||73,450||86.21|
|Texas House of Representatives 70th District Election, 2010|
|Republican||Ken Paxton (inc.)||43,006||100.00|
|Texas Senate 8th District Election, 2012|
|Democratic||Jack Ternan, Jr.||99,010||34.60|
|Texas Attorney General Republican Primary Election, 2014|
|Texas Attorney General Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2014|
|Texas Attorney General Election, 2014|
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|Texas House of Representatives|
| Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 70th district
| Member of the Texas Senate
from the 8th district
| Attorney General of Texas