AUSTIN, Texas — The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether Attorney General Ken Paxton committed professional misconduct by challenging President Biden’s victory in the courts, which a complaint called a “frivolous lawsuit” that wasted taxpayer money.
The investigation, which could result in discipline ranging from a reprimand to disbarment, is the latest obstacle for Mr. Paxton, who has been at the center of bribery and corruption accusations and was indicted in 2015 on allegations of securities fraud in a case that has not been resolved.
Mr. Paxton, a Republican, is also being challenged by a member of the Bush family in next year’s primary for attorney general, the state’s highest law enforcement office and a position that has served as a political springboard. He was preceded in office by Gov. Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn.
After it became clear that Mr. Biden won the election, Mr. Paxton filed a lawsuit in early December that was ridiculed by many legal experts and ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. He had asked the court to extend a deadline for the certification of presidential electors, arguing that election irregularities in four other states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — warranted further investigation.
That month, Kevin Moran, a retired Houston Chronicle reporter and president of the Galveston Island Democrats, filed a grievance to the Texas State Bar. In his filing, Mr. Moran contended that Mr. Paxton knew the lawsuit lacked legal merit and that any unelected lawyer would face disciplinary action for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
“Knowing that the national election had NOT been rigged or stolen, he acted in a way to stoke those baseless conspiracy theories nationwide,” Mr. Moran wrote.
The State Bar of Texas said it was prohibited by statute from discussing any pending matters, and the attorney general’s office did not reply to a request for comment.
Mr. Paxton’s campaign spokesman, Ian Prior, denounced the complaint as a “low-level stunt” and “frivolous allegation,” adding that “Democrats in Texas keep showing just how much they can’t stand election integrity.”
The complaint was initially dismissed by the state bar’s chief disciplinary counsel’s office but later revived by its Board of Disciplinary Appeals, which is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court. The 12-member board notified Mr. Moran in late May that it had granted his appeal after “finding that the grievance alleges a possible violation” of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Misconduct.
Mr. Moran, 71, said on Thursday that he had filed the complaint as “an upset citizen” — not as a Democratic official — because he was outraged by the attorney general’s lawsuit, particularly after a multitude of judges had upheld Mr. Biden’s victory.
“With his track record, I believe he should be disbarred,” he said of Mr. Paxton.
After receiving a letter from the state bar in January that dismissed his complaint, Mr. Moran filed an appeal that he said he was somewhat surprised to see granted.
In cases like Mr. Paxton’s, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel must undertake a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is cause to proceed. If it decides there is, the accusation of professional misconduct would be adjudicated in a trial court or an evidentiary panel.
Mr. Paxton, in his second term as the Texas attorney general, faces a tough re-election campaign against George P. Bush, the state’s land commissioner as well as the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and the son of Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Both candidates are vying for an endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump, who still wields influence over Texas Republicans.
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.