FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2023
Austin, Texas– Today, Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) issued the following guidance for the official Texas Senate Journal, to provide guidance for future lawmakers on impeachment proceedings:
Having fulfilled my duty as a juror in the September of 2023 impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton, I wish to ensure that the Senate journal accurately reflects my overall concerns regarding this impeachment. My intention is for this entry to stand as a source of guidance for future legislators, ensuring the protection of due process, procedural fairness, and unwavering adherence to justice.
Article I, Section 19 of the Texas Constitution establishes the right to due process for all individuals, emphasizing the necessity of upholding these principles in any impeachment proceeding.
These crucial factors underscore the paramount importance of these principles:
Respect for Precedent: The actions we take today will cast a lasting influence on the legislators of tomorrow. I firmly believe that the constitutional framework and procedural standards established in previous impeachments, such as the 1917 impeachment of Governor Ferguson and the 1975 impeachment of Judge Carrillo, allowed for transparency, due process for the accused, legal representation for the accused, cross-examination of witnesses, adherence to evidentiary standards, and testimony under oath. For the Paxton impeachment, when the House General Investigative Committee rushed to hire outside counsel to question witnesses, who were not under oath, the Attorney General was not allowed to come before that committee with counsel, to refute allegations, or to question witnesses.
In the Ferguson impeachment, all witnesses were under oath, and the accused was allowed with counsel to cross examine those same witnesses. Not in this case.
Transparent Proceedings: All forthcoming impeachment proceedings should be mandated to ensure full transparency, accountability, and the meticulous application of the law, following the correct precedent demonstrated in the impeachment trials of Governor Ferguson and Judge Carillo. Both investigations and trials ensured that witness testimony was under oath, and there were guardrails to prevent swift judgment without deliberation. Both the citizens of Texas, and the accused individual, must have access to information to safeguard the integrity of the process, uphold public trust, and avoid reliance on mere speculation or hearsay.
Due Process and Immediate Consequences: We must reevaluate the provisions in Article XV, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution, which govern the removal of officers, including the Attorney General. This constitutional provision stipulates that an impeached official shall be suspended from office during the impeachment proceedings. The 2023 impeachment of Attorney General Paxton raises concerns that the required suspension does not provide for due process or a comprehensive adjudication of guilt or innocence. If we wish to maintain the principle that an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty, this provision should be revised.
We should also consider revising chapter 665 of the Local Govt. Code, a recodification of the “forgiveness doctrine”. Nowhere in that statute, re-codified as recently as 1993, is there a distinction between constitutional and statutory officers. This statute should be repealed, or this distinction should be made, in order to ensure that there is harmony between caselaw, statute, and the constitutional provisions of Article XV.
As it stands today, an impeachment trial in Texas is a political trial. In a political trial, the “forgiveness doctrine” can be applied. It is not only appropriate and allowed, it is consistent with precedent.
Senate jurors have unequivocal jurisdiction over impeachment proceedings. The Texas Supreme Court reminds us in applicable caselaw that this is plenary power, in these specific proceedings, which means absolute.
In the Ferguson trial, the House had built a record that totaled over 70 volumes. For the Paxton impeachment trial, the record was 170 pages. In the Ferguson impeachment, the House placed over 30 witnesses under oath. For the Paxton impeachment, the House placed no one under oath. Should the House consider impeachment in the future, it is critically important to build a record that is credible, thorough, and one that takes into consideration the important factors and constitutional rights of the accused, that must be protected, listed above.
The Paxton impeachment trial ended in acquittal for all articles and this was decided correctly. House Managers, and counsel did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. My vote of summary judgment at the beginning of the trial was specifically for concerns related to the process mentioned above and concerns about the weaponization of the impeachment effort due to new precedent being established, which ultimately ignored precedent from past Texas impeachment proceedings. The House does not only serve in a grand jury role in this process. Rule of law and adherence to precedent is incredibly important beyond the grand jury designation.
The impeachment process in Texas must be unimpeachable.
I offer this guidance with the intention of benefiting future generations of Texas lawmakers.