Texas Senate approves rules package to govern impeachment trial of AG Paxton

June 23, 2023
Ben Marquis

The Republican-controlled Texas House voted overwhelmingly in May to approve 20 articles of impeachment against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who will stand trial in the Republican-controlled Texas Senate.

The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a resolution drafted by a special committee that established a total of 31 rules that will govern how that impeachment trial is conducted, Breitbart reported.

Per the resolution, the trial will commence on the morning of Tuesday, September 5, and be presided over by Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in his capacity as president of the Senate.

Basic ground rules for impeachment proceedings

The first few rules of the 29-page resolution lay out the roles that will be played by various members and officers of the Senate as it temporarily transitions into an impeachment court, as well as the members of the House who will serve as prosecutors along with Paxton and his defense counsel, and how everything that transpires is to be fully recorded.

Rules and dates were also set for pre-trial motions, such as for the dismissal of certain articles, and the responses to those motions, all of which will be ruled on by the presiding officer or put up to a vote by the members, a majority of which are needed for approval.

Other rules established how the trial would proceed in terms of the presentation of evidence, as well as the testimony and cross-examination of witnesses, and opportunities for rebuttal.

Most of the proceedings will be an open session that can be attended by the media and members of the public, except for the deliberations that will be held behind closed doors before a resumption of an open session when it comes time to cast final votes and render verdicts on each individual charge.

Strict rules were also imposed against the use of any "wireless mobile device" during the proceedings, as well as limits on the ability of members, officers, and witnesses to communicate with each other or advocate positions, and one rule, in particular, contemplates the issuance of a gag order.

Timing for statements and arguments, two-thirds necessary for conviction and disqualification

The rules package also imposes time limits on both parties once the proceedings finally begin, with 60 minutes each for opening statements, 24 hours total for each side to present evidence and question or cross-examine witnesses, 60 minutes each for rebuttals, 60 minutes each for closing arguments, and finally, if necessary due to conviction, 15 minutes on each applicable count for members to debate whether AG Paxton should be disqualified from holding future office.

Interestingly enough, of the 20 articles of impeachment that were passed by the House, just 16 will be initially considered with the remaining four -- which deal with alleged false statements and obstruction of justice -- held in abeyance until the conclusion and only considered if there is a conviction on any of the initial counts.

A two-thirds majority of members is necessary in order to convict and remove Paxton from office on any of the articles, after which a separate vote that also requires a two-thirds majority will be held to determine if the conviction should also lead to disqualification from future office.

AG Paxton's wife, a sitting senator, deemed to be in "conflict" ahead of impeachment trial

The final rule of the package is of particular note, as it applies to one specific member of the Senate deemed to be in "conflict," State Sen. Angela Paxton, the attorney general's wife, whose presence is mandatory for the purpose of calculating the requisite number of votes needed but who will be otherwise deemed ineligible to cast votes on any matters, motions, or questions, nor will she be permitted to participate in any closed sessions or deliberations.

Prior to the passage of the rules package, Sen. Paxton issued a statement in which she noted that her oath of office and Texas law "compels each member of the Senate to attend when the Senate meets as a court of impeachment."

"As a member of the Senate, I hold these obligations sacred and I will carry out my duties, not because it is easy, but because the Constitution demands it and my constituents deserve it," she added.

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