AUSTIN, Texas — A national lawyers group on Monday called for professional licensing bodies to investigate what it called a “breach of ethical rules” by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 17 of his counterparts in red states who sued in the Supreme Court last week in a vain attempt to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in four states in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy, a nonpartisan group that says it has the support of 5,000 lawyers across the country, said in a statement that Paxton and his fellow Republican state attorneys general filed an “abusive lawsuit” that pushed groundless theories that erode confidence in vital institutions.

“The historically unprecedented attack on our democracy needs to be met by historically unprecedented state bar investigations,” said the group.

It called for the state bar of Texas, and its lawyer-licensing counterparts in other states, to investigate unprofessional conduct by not only the state attorneys general but any lawyers among the 126 GOP members of Congress who supported the suit.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the Austin Police Association in Austin, Texas, in September. Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

“We call on state licensing authorities to promptly investigate the breach of ethical rules by these public officials and all lawyers participating in the filing of this Supreme Court petition,” the group said.

“They must not shrink from applying established ethical rules to discipline those officials.”

Paxton spokesmen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Late Friday, the Supreme Court sealed President Donald Trump’s defeat, soundly rejecting a demand from Texas to nullify 10.4 million votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin that put Biden over the top in last month’s presidential election.

Seventeen states that Trump carried had backed Texas’ request, while 25 others, including two where Trump was victorious, had filed motions opposing the idea that one state can meddle in another’s elections.

The court’s ruling eliminated the biggest remaining uncertainty ahead of Monday’s Electoral College vote, in which electors were to gather in state capitals to vote for whomever won their state’s presidential contest. In Austin, Texas’ 38 electors are pledged to Trump, who carried the state by about 6 percentage points.

Nationally, Biden won by a decisive 306-232 margin in the Electoral College and also collected 7 million more votes than Trump nationwide.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy was formed in the past two years to challenge what it considers Trump’s “assault on the rule of law,” according to its website.

Among lawyers supporting its condemnation of Paxton’s lawsuit were two scholars at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Every constitutional lawyer knew the law suit was frivolous — the AG’s office should have known that, too,” said Lucas Powe, a professor of law and government at UT.

UT law professor Jordan Steiker added, “In constitutional democracies, courts remain open to enforce important norms. The Texas effort to reverse the outcome of our presidential election, without any plausible grounds in fact or law to justify that result, amounts to an abuse of our courts. … Worse still is the apparent goal of sowing doubt about the election’s outcome and to use the availability of our courts as a weapon against democracy itself.”


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