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Lawsuit filed by Ken Paxton’s whistleblowers can move forward, Texas Supreme Court rules

From left, Ryan Vassar, Blake Brickman, Mark Penley, three of four former deputies who brought a suit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, speak at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
/
The Texas Newsroom
From left, Ryan Vassar, Blake Brickman, Mark Penley, three of four former deputies who brought a suit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, speak at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled a whistleblower lawsuit against state Attorney General Ken Paxton can proceed.

The ruling comes days after four of Paxton’s former employees renewed their pleas to the state’s highest civil court after not receiving any of the $3.3 million negotiated in a settlement agreement earlier this year.

J. Mark Penley, Ryan Vassar, David Maxwell and James Blake Brickman have alleged they were terminated in violation of the state’s whistleblower protection laws. The four are part of a group that reported Paxton to the FBI for allegedly abusing his office to benefit a donor and an Austin real estate developer, Nate Paul.

In a statement to The Texas Newsroom, the attorneys for the whistleblowers celebrated the decision.

"We are looking forward to obtaining a trial setting and to preparing the case for trial as soon as possible," the attorneys said.

The allegations made by the whistleblowers were at the center of the historic impeachment trial that concluded in Austin earlier this month after the Texas Senate acquitted Paxton of 16 articles of impeachment.

"The political trial is over, and it's time for the case to return to a real court," Brickman said at a press conference Monday.

“I’m ready and I believe my colleagues are ready to go back to state district court here in Travis County and continue with our litigation,” Penley added.

Friday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Texas reinstates the lawsuit brought by the whistleblowers. This means a trial can move forward in the Travis County District Court.

Paxton’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
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