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Special Prosecutors Denied Almost $200,000 in Fees

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 21, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It may come as a shock to true believers, but you don't always get what you pray for -- especially when it comes to attorney's fees.

That's because you literally have to pray for relief from the court, and attorney's fee awards are not actually that big in Texas. It's not about the struggling economy or hurricane damage.

In the case of an attorney general allegedly gone bad, it's about the law. The attorneys prosecuting him want almost $200,000 for pre-trial work in the case, but the county fee schedule only authorizes $1,000.

Securities Fraud

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces trial for alleged securities fraud, dating back to 2011 when he was a member of the state house of Representatives. He is accused of failing to tell investors in a tech firm that he would earn a commission and of lying to them that he was investing in the company.

He faces two felony counts of securities fraud and one felony for failing to register with the securities board. He goes to trial Dec. 11 on the failure-to-register charge.

The fee dispute comes from the three attorneys who are prosecuting Paxton. Collins County commissioners approved their first bill for $242,000 last year.

But they refused to pay a second bill for $199,000 this year, and appealed a state judge's order to pay it. The state Fifth Court of Appeals said the bills were way out of order.

Fixed Fees

The appeals court said the county fee schedule calls for "a fixed fee of $1,000 for pre-trial preparation, and a fixed fee of $500 for each one-half day of trial" for felony cases. A judge may authorize more fees in "unusual circumstances," but that was not this case.

Most criminal cases are handled by the local district attorney, but the Collins County District Attorney begged off the case because he was a college friend of the state Attorney General. The special prosecutors then took over, but the case has lagged for two years with motions and trial continuances.

When government attorneys have conflicts, private attorneys can be enlisted to do the work. They often do not get their usual hourly fees, however, because of fixed-fee rules and court scrutiny.

In Collins County, the commissioners are also scrutinizing payments to attorneys who represent indigent defendants. The cost to defend them has more than doubled in the past 10 years, according to reports.

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