The all-Republican court sided with four of Paxton’s former top staffers, who said they were improperly fired in 2020 after reporting Paxton to the FBI for allegedly abusing his office to benefit his friend and campaign donor Nate Paul.
The court’s ruling came four days after the whistleblowers—Blake Brickman, Mark Penley, Ryan Vassar and David Maxwell—asked the court to reopen the case and less than two weeks after the Texas Senate acquitted Paxton of 16 impeachment charges.
How we got here
In February, Paxton and the whistleblowers reached a $3.3 million settlement agreement, effectively putting the case on hold. The attorney general’s office asked the Texas Legislature to pay for the settlement with taxpayer money.
Instead, House investigators opened a probe into Paxton’s alleged misconduct, and lawmakers declined to fund the settlement.
During a Sept. 25 news conference, the whistleblowers said they requested that the Texas Supreme Court resume the case, arguing “there is no reason to believe a final settlement agreement is achievable at this point.”
The new ruling allows the lawsuit to move forward in a Travis County District Court.
Paxton would be required to testify or plead the Fifth Amendment in a district court, Brickman told reporters Sept. 25. The attorney general did not testify during his Senate impeachment trial and was not present for the majority of the proceedings.
“The political trial is over, and it’s time for the case to return to a real court,” Brickman said.
Penley said he believed a jury would determine Paxton violated the Texas Whistleblower Act, which is meant to protect public employees from being fired or retaliated against after reporting their employers for violating the law.
“What we want is justice,” Penley said Sept. 25. “And we want the people of Texas to have an attorney general that acts with integrity and good public policy.”
Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the ruling.