Committee Hires Rusty Hardin for Impeachment Probe

Criminal defense attorney and former Houston assistant district attorney Rusty Hardin sits down with Evan Smith at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.
Criminal defense attorney and former Houston assistant district attorney Rusty Hardin sits down with Evan Smith at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.

For help with its ongoing investigation of Regent Wallace Hall, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has turned to prominent Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who'll serve as its special counsel.

At the end of the summer's first special session, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, expanded the committee's authority to allow it consider articles of impeachment against gubernatorial appointees.

Previously, state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, had filed a resolution laying out complaints against Hall, a controversial figure on the UT System board largely because of his unusually investigative approach to the job, in an effort to get the impeachment process started. Rather than have the House consider the resolution, the matter was turned over to the transparency committee. 

The committee has held multiple informational and planning meetings to better understand its charge and the state's impeachment process, which has rarely been used and never for a university system regent.

To aid in those efforts, committee leaders indicated that they would hire a special counsel. Hardin is certainly a formidable choice, having recently served as the special prosecutor in the case of the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. He has famously represented the likes of Roger Clemens and Warren Moon. In 1994, he served under Bob Fiske and Ken Starr in the Whitewater Independent Counsel's Office.

If the committee determines that impeachment is warranted in Hall's case, Hardin will be called upon to help the lawmakers put the articles together and present them to the House. If a majority of that body is convinced and votes in favor of proceeding with the process, the Senate will convene as a court of impeachment.

"The serious nature of this investigation requires the use of a respected, accomplished attorney like Mr. Hardin," state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, one of the committee's co-chairs, said in a statement. "I have full confidence that he will carry out his work with integrity and professionalism."

State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, described Hardin as "highly respected" and said he would help the committee conduct an investigation that is "fair and thorough."

"The University of Texas System is one of our state's greatest resources," Flynn said in a statement, "which is why it is imperative that the System is governed appropriately."

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.