Updated at 10:25 a.m.: Corrects that the charges against Paxton are state not federal charges.
One of the most basic foundations of our legal system is the right to a speedy trial. Our Constitution spells out clearly that the accused has a right to confront his accusers in a timely public trial. That protects defendants and taxpayers, too.
No one should understand this more than Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Yet this week brought yet another troubling delay in Paxton’s trial on state securities fraud charges.
Paxton, the state’s top lawyer, was indicted five long years ago, and it’s frustrating that it seems we’re no closer to seeing any resolution. We don’t yet know where the cases will be heard, let alone what witnesses might testify to.
As this newspaper has said repeatedly for years now, it’s past time we sort these charges out in a court of law. Paxton is either innocent — as he has maintained — of duping friends to invest in a questionable McKinney technology firm as he’s charged, or he’s not. Either way, taxpayers deserve to know.
The latest snag involves a back-and-forth venue fight that had the case being moved out of Collin County — where it originated — to Harris County and back to Collin County again. This week, a new judge put that decision on hold while he reviews that order, which means the case appears, stunningly, to be back to square one.
This after multiple delays over how much prosecutors should be paid — and some delays caused by Paxton himself with unsuccessful attempts to have the charges thrown out. Paxton even confusingly argued that the case against him was politically motivated, despite it originating from a Collin County grand jury in the solidly Republican district he once represented in the state Legislature.
Paxton deserves and has the presumption of innocence, and his attorneys deserve a chance to defend him vigorously and through every legal means available. But the longer this goes on, the longer this embarrassingly hangs over Paxton’s head. And it threatens his credibility and the public trust in his decisions on so many important issues.
Just this week, Paxton issued guidance saying that public and private school officials, not local health officials, can close schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And recently, he’s threatened charges against county election officials who allow expanded mail-in voting because of the pandemic.
We’ve agreed with Paxton on many cases and support his important work fighting sex traffickers. And we’ve disagreed with him on questions of LGBTQ rights, immigration and federal environmental regulation. Texas voters made clear that he was the choice for attorney general.
That means that he’s providing the legal guidance and official opinions on matters that affect millions of Texans.
Doing so under perpetual indictment is not good for the state. It’s past time to resolve this case and move on. Paxton and Texans deserve that.