The court-appointed prosecutors pursuing Attorney General Ken Paxton may yet get the six-figure payday they’ve been hoping for after the state Court of Criminal Appeals intervened in the case Tuesday.
The state’s highest court for criminal matters issued an order Monday that blocks another order by the Fifth Court of Appeals to District Judge George Gallagher, telling him to vacate an order to the Collin County Commissioners Court to pay a $205,000 invoice from the prosecutors.
The court gave the Fifth Court of Appeals 30 days to submit arguments in defense of its earlier decision.
That means at least five of the nine judges on the high court are willing to entertain the idea that the Fifth Court’s order was either without legal authority or an abuse of discretion.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that the Court will ultimately conclude that the Fifth Court’s unwarranted decision to scuttle the fee schedules of over two-thirds of all Texas counties was a clear abuse of discretion,” Wice said in an email to reporters.
Collin County has already paid some $370,000 to court-appointed lawyers on the prosecution team.
It challenged the order to pay another $205,000 at the invitation of the appeals court, which was hearing an appeal of a taxpayer lawsuit over the same matter.
At least four attorneys on the prosecution team are collecting $300 an hour under a handshake deal with a previous judge on the case.
State law requires that court-appointed prosecutors be paid according to a fixed schedule. The highest fixed rate approved by the Collin County courts is $150 an hour in capital murder cases.
The trial court cited an exception for “unusual circumstances” in approving a higher rate. The appeals court decided that state law still required a uniform standard.