The criminal trial of Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton should be held in Collin Co. instead of Harris Co., where it has been pending since 2017, the First Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) today (Thursday). A divided panel of three Democratic justices affirmed a lower court’s decision to stay another court’s order setting aside another court’s order to move the case to Harris Co. The issue of venue has been pending before the First Court of Appeals for seven months.
The court’s order (PDF) provides a lengthy discussion of the procedural cases as well as the underlying criminal cases’ winding paths between courts, which is summarized below:
- On July 28, 2015 a felony case was brought against Paxton in Collin Co. and assigned to the 416th District Court, presided over at the time by Judge Chris Oldner (R).
- Oldner recused himself from the case the next day.
- The case was assigned by the Presiding Judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region to the 396th District Court in Tarrant Co., which was at the time and still is presided over by Judge George Gallagher (R).
- Gallagher’s bench is actually in the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region. He was assigned to the First Region by the Eight Region’s presiding judge at the request of the First Region’s presiding judge.
- Gallagher had 157 days to act on the case. He did not. A second order from the Eighth Region’s presiding judge extended Gallagher’s assignment of the case for another 366 days, ending January 2, 2017. He did not hold a trial on the merits during that period but he scheduled one for May 1, 2017.
- Importantly, Gallagher’s assignment to the case ended on January 2, 2017, yet he “nevertheless continued to preside over the underlying cases” noted today’s ruling.
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