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AP investigation finds dysfunction in Texas AG’s office

FILE - In this June 22, 2017 file photo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a Dalas news conference, June 22, 2017. As Paxton seeks to fend off his own legal problems and win a third term as Texas’ top law enforcement official, an AP investigation found his agency in disarray behind the scenes, with seasoned lawyers quitting over practices they say aim to slant legal work, reward loyalists and drum out dissent. (AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez, File)

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Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg uncovered evidence of deep dysfunction inside Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, including criminal cases dropped and lawyers quitting over practices they say aim to slant legal work, reward loyalists and drum out dissent.

Dallas-based Bleiberg spent months in pursuit of a tip he’d first gotten in January 2021 — that one of Paxton’s supporters was secretively fired less than two months into his job as an agency advisor after he tried to make a point by displaying child pornography in a meeting. The AP investigation, based on hundreds of pages of public and confidential records, data analysis and interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees, confirmed that episode and numerous other examples, including staff screenings of a debunked film questioning the 2020 election.

Bleiberg found seasoned attorneys leaving and that divisions of the attorney general’s office have lost between 25% and 50% of their line attorneys. Forty percent of the jobs were vacant in the division overseeing human trafficking cases, an area of major concern in Texas. Just last month the office quietly dropped a series of human trafficking and child sexual assault cases after losing track of one of the victims a stumble in open court emblematic of broad disarray inside one of America’s most prominent law offices.

The AP story played prominently, appearing on the front pages of papers in Dallas, Houston, Austin and more. Texas Public Radio interviewed Bleiberg, POLITICO’s “Playbook” featured the story and The Texas Tribune devoted an entire episode of its weekly podcast to discussing the reporting.

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