Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is still fighting 5-year-old felony securities fraud charges, has failed in his bid to kick a Democratic Harris County judge off his ongoing criminal case.
An administrative judge in Houston, Susan Brown, denied Paxton’s motion to recuse Judge Jason Luong from the case, The Dallas Morning News first reported Friday.
It’s a loss for Paxton’s team in the long-running prosecution, which has yet to go to trial amid side fights over venue and prosecutor pay that have spanned years and bounced among numerous courts across the state. Paxton, a Republican, has maintained his innocence in the case, in which he is accused of persuading investors to buy stock in a technology firm without disclosing that he would be compensated for it.
An earlier judge in the case, Democrat Robert Johnson, recused himself earlier this summer because the Texas attorney general’s office is representing him — along with about 20 other Harris County judges — in an unrelated lawsuit over bail practices.
Paxton’s team had asked that Luong be recused for the same reason, but the request was denied this week.
Luong is the fourth judge to preside over the case. Now, Luong will consider whether to move Paxton’s case back to his native Collin County, where it originated. The case was moved to Harris County years ago after prosecutors successfully argued that they could not get a fair trial in a part of the state where Paxton is so well-connected.
“We’re gratified that Judge Brown found that Paxton’s motion to recuse Judge Luong was baseless," said Brian Wice, one of the prosecutors taking Paxton to trial. “We’re confident that Judge Luong will find that Paxton’s motion to keep from being tried in Harris County is cut from the same cloth.”
Paxton's defense team said it will ask Brown to reconsider her ruling.
"More importantly, we are puzzled that the Special Prosecutors would think it appropriate to send the case to a judge who suffers from the same problem that caused Judge Johnson to recuse himself," attorneys Philip Hilder, Dan Cordell and Bill Mateja said in a joint statement.