By Nicole Lyn Pesce
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has probably been all over your news and Twitter feeds ever since reports that he fled his home to avoid being served a subpoena began circulating online on Monday.
In fact, “Ken Paxton” and “attorney general” were trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning, and searches for “Ken Paxton” were also high on real-time Google trends in the U.S.
So this is what you need to know about who Paxton is, what he says happened on Monday, and why he was being served in the first place.
Who is Ken Paxton?
Paxton has served as the attorney general of Texas since 2015, making him the state’s top law enforcement officer leading more than 4,000 employees in 38 divisions and 117 offices around Texas, as his official bio page notes . He also previously served in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas state Senate. His wife, Angela Paxton, is a state senator.
He is also a close ally and supporter of former President Donald Trump, appearing with his wife at the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol complex to give a speech on his failed legal efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. And he’s been in the spotlight for other legal issues, such as his top deputies reporting him to the FBI in September 2020 for alleged bribery, abuse of office and other crimes.
Why was Ken Paxton being subpoenaed this week?
According to a federal court affidavit shared by the Texas Tribune , Paxton was being served a subpoena to testify at a federal court hearing on Tuesday. This was part of a lawsuit filed last August by several nonprofit abortion funds trying to stop state prosecutors from penalizing them for helping Texans seek abortions out of state now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
What did Ken Paxton allegedly do when he was served?
The federal court affidavit alleges that Paxton fled process server Ernesto Martin Herrera, who attempted to subpoena Paxton at his home on Monday morning.
Herrera writes in his sworn affidavit that he knocked on the Paxtons’ door at around 8:30 a.m., and a woman identifying herself as Angela answered the door. When he said he was there to serve Paxton important legal documents, the woman said Paxton was on the phone. Herrera offered to wait until he got off the phone, but Angela said that he was in a hurry. So Herrera said he left his business card with her, and went back to his car and waited.
Almost an hour later, Herrera testified he saw a black Chevrolet Tahoe pull up to the driveway, and then 20 minutes after that, Paxton left his garage and approached the Tahoe. Herrera got out of his car and approached Paxton. “As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage,” Herrera wrote, emphasizing “ran” in all capital letters, and underlining the word.
A few minutes later, the woman who called herself Angela came out of the house and got into the driver’s seat of a different Chevrolet truck in the driveway and started it; she also opened the rear door behind the driver’s side and left it open. Herrera said that a few minutes later, Paxton “RAN from the door inside the garage toward the rear door of the driver side.” Herrera alleges he “loudly” called Paxton by name, and said he had important court documents for him, but “Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck.” Herrera said he then told Paxton he was serving him with legal documents and leaving them on the ground beside the truck. Herrera said Paxton got in the truck, left the documents on the ground, and both Chevrolet vehicles left.
What does Ken Paxton say happened?
Paxton responded in tweets posted from his verified Twitter account on Monday night — and in response to the Tribune story — that he was trying to “avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family.”
He also called the news stories published by the Texas Tribune and other outlets “a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves.” He added that “conservatives had faced threats to their safety” across the country.
What happens next?
Paxton’s office filed a motion to quash the subpoena, CNN reported , and a Texas judge ruled on Tuesday that the state attorney general didn’t have to show up in court for the hearing after all.
“Top executive officials should not be called to testify absent extraordinary circumstances,” read the motion obtained by CNN. It argued that the “entire reason” Paxton was named as a defendant in the first place was because he is a high-ranking government official.
The motion also argued that Paxton’s subpoenas had not been served properly. It claimed that the process server was “unidentified” and posed a “security risk,” noting he “loitered at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted both the Attorney General and his wife, a Senator in the Texas legislature.”