AG Paxton Defends State Laws
Protecting the Health and Safety of
AUSTIN, TX – A legal team from Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office today urged the U.S. District Court in Austin to dismiss a baseless lawsuit brought by radical pro-abortion activists seeking to strike down virtually all abortion-related laws and regulations in Texas.
“It’s outrageous that these activists are so dedicated to their radical pro-abortion agenda that they want the courts to repeal laws enacted by the Texas Legislature to protect the health of women getting abortions, such as requiring the sterilization of medical instruments,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Many of Texas’ common-sense abortion regulations have been in place for decades, are similar to laws passed in a majority of the states, and have been upheld as constitutional by the courts.”
During oral arguments at today’s district court hearing, Attorney General Paxton’s office pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld requirements like those targeted in the lawsuit against Texas, affirming multiple times that the state has an interest in safeguarding women’s health and protecting unborn life.
Texas’ abortion-related laws include many common-sense rules, such as requiring that abortion clinics are licensed, surgical instruments must be sterilized, and more complicated and dangerous late-term surgical abortions must be performed in surgical centers rather than in a doctor’s office. Texas is not alone in protecting the health and safety of women:
40 states limit abortions to being performed only by a physician;
44 states have parental involvement requirements; and
29 states have laws requiring physicians to provide certain information to patients considering an abortion.
“My office’s solid legal arguments demonstrated that the lawsuit is attempting to use the judicial system to repeal laws that the state’s elected representatives passed to make sure women who have abortions do so with all the information they need and under conditions that are as medically safe as possible,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I’m hopeful the district court will agree with us and dismiss this baseless lawsuit.”
New Mexico Attorney General wants to handle fatal Child Abuse cases
Attorney General Hector Balderas wants New Mexico lawmakers to expand his authority by allowing him to take over child abuse cases resulting in death without having to wait for a district attorney to decline to prosecute, dismiss the case or ask for his help.
Why? Balderas said in a phone interview Friday that his office is well equipped to handle such cases and he wants to be able to step in and help children whenever its resources are needed, “like the Navy SEALs.”
“When prosecutors have referred complex, tragic cases to us, we’ve had above-average success rates,” Balderas said.
Balderas said his office is uniquely equipped to handle complicated child abuse cases because his staff includes victim advocates, investigators, lawyers and appellate attorneys, meaning he could handle all aspects of a case without having to rely on other agencies to bring a case to trail.
“In every community, there are sometimes unhealthy tensions between law enforcement, child protective agencies and the DA’s Office,” Balderas said. “But we are one unit. We collaborate at every stage. We are always working together.”
Under current laws, Balderas said, he has to wait for the prosecutor in the judicial district where a case arises to either ask for his help, dismiss a case or decline to prosecute before the Attorney General’s Office can jump in.
“To me, that’s just not sound policy when we are in a child abuse crisis,” Balderas said. “Now is the time to make the attorney general an equal partner. I shouldn’t have to ask for permission. It shouldn’t be a failure in the system that triggers our ability to intervene.”
Balderas said district attorneys usually work well with his office but sometimes don’t agree on the best way to attack a case.
He pointed to a recent high-profile child abuse death in the Taos area in which authorities say a 3-year-old boy abducted by his father from the child’s mother’s home in Georgia was found dead after being denied medications and instead subjected to Islamic prayer rituals for healing. Balderas said that case is an example of one that could have benefited from his office’s expertise.
The attorney general said he offered 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos his help at the outset of the Taos County case, but Gallegos didn’t consult with him until after a judge denied a motion to hold the defendants without bail while they await trial.
“I offered meaningful support and strategy so they could win and the community would get a timely and aggressive prosecution,” Balderas said. “I don’t believe it’s collaboration when you are only calling after a loss or setback.”
Gallegos did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
In other cases, Balderas said, the state Children, Youth and Families Department has made investigative missteps that affected the outcome.
CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said Friday she didn’t know enough about Balderas’ proposal to comment at length she welcomes the chance to partner with Balderas or any other law enforcement agency on improving front-end investigations to better protect the state’s children. Jacobson added that her agency might not be affected if the law were changed because CYFD doesn’t participate in criminal investigations.
A spokesman for Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez in Albuquerque referred questions to New Mexico District Attorney’s Association President Dianna Luce.
Luce, a prosecutor in southeastern New Mexico, said in an email that Balderas had not contacted her organization about proposed legislation and that she cannot comment in her capacity as association president until she knows more.
“As the elected district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District,” she wrote, “I’m opposed to giving blanket authority to another entity outside of my district. Our prosecutors have experience in prosecuting these types of cases and have successfully prosecuted child abuse resulting in death cases.”
In Santa Fe, First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna said in an email Friday he also hadn’t seen the proposed law change and wanted a chance to discuss it with Balderas and the District Attorney’s Association to see what exactly the attorney general proposes.
“I can’t speak for all district attorneys in our state,” Serna wrote, “but I would anticipate opposition to the Attorney General’s position, considering each DA is elected to their respective districts.”
Serna added that he has a “great working relationship” with Balderas’ office and will continue to request assistance or pull resources from the Attorney General’s Office when needed.
Balderas said he is working to draft legislation and find a legislative sponsor.
AG Paxton Issues Letter to Ft Worth ISD
Demanding Public Access to Curriculum
and Protection of Parental Rights
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton today dispatched a letter to Fort Worth Independent School District (ISD) requesting a full and complete copy of the district’s human sexuality curriculum after the district repeatedly denied parents access to these public documents.
Parents reported that not only were their records requests denied, but their children were prohibited from bringing a copy of their textbooks home for review or from taking photos of the curriculum.
“Parents have the right to inspect and review information regarding what their child is learning and participating in while attending school,” Attorney General Paxton said. “By law, public school curriculum should be fully available to the public, and parents retain their constitutional right to direct their own child’s upbringing. Denying parental and public access to curriculum of any kind is a clear violation the Texas Education Code.”
The letter requests that Fort Worth ISD provide a complete copy of their human sexuality curriculum, which has been used in 22 schools since 2015, to the Office of the Attorney General.
Two years ago, the Attorney General issued an opinion confirming that public school districts must grant parents access to all written records concerning their child’s education and activities.
AG Paxton’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit Reaches New Milestone with
10,000 Total Arrests
AUSTIN, TX – Attorney General Ken Paxton today commended the Fugitive Apprehension Unit of his office for reaching a major milestone since its inception in 2003.
Earlier this week, the unit – working jointly with the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force – achieved its 10,000th arrest with the capture of 43-year-old Juan Gabriel Herrera.
The undocumented illegal immigrant from Mexico was wanted for aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony.
“This major milestone is a testament to our Fugitive Apprehension Unit’s hard work and dedication. These courageous law enforcement officers have successfully arrested 10,000 fugitives and provided invaluable protection for Texans,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I am proud of the bravery and valor they demonstrate every day while keeping Texas strong, safe and just.”
Among the arrests made by the Fugitive Apprehension Unit are 29 dangerous criminals on the Texas DPS Top Ten Most Wanted List.
The Fugitive Apprehension Unit includes 22 investigators, three criminal analysts, two administrative assistants and a five-person command staff who operate in regional offices in Austin, Houston and Arlington.
The unit’s mission is to locate and arrest violent fugitives, convicted child sex offenders who violate conditions of their parole, and to arrest sex offenders who fail to comply with the state’s mandated sex offender registration requirements. It also assists in locating missing and endangered runaway children reported by local law enforcement agencies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Investigation by AG Paxton’s Office Helps
Shut Down Backpage.com
AUSTIN, TX – In his office’s continued push to end human trafficking in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that Backpage.com, the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world, is permanently shut down.
The seizure and takedown of the Backpage website was accomplished through a collaborative law enforcement effort involving Attorney General Paxton’s office, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Arizona and Central District of California, and the California Attorney General’s office.
In October 2016, Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, was arrested in Houston by officers from Attorney General Paxton’s Law Enforcement Division in a joint operation with the California attorney general’s office. A search of the company’s Dallas headquarters uncovered a treasure trove of evidence that was critical to the investigation.
“Backpage generated millions of dollars annually on the backs of innocent women and children who were forced or coerced into sex trafficking,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Taking down this despicable website will undoubtedly save lives and spare many others from the unspeakable horrors of sex trafficking.”
Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority.
Two years ago, he launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime unit, which works closely with prosecutors around Texas to prosecute human traffickers.
Earlier this year, he unveiled a powerful training video to teach Texans how to spot and report suspected human trafficking activity.