Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Tony Buzbee, a high-profile and boisterously outspoken Houston attorney who defended former Gov. Rick Perry against abuse-of-office charges, will lead suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal defense team in his impeachment trial.
Buzbee had said on his Instagram profile Friday that he’d been retained by Paxton but later deleted that post. On Tuesday, Buzbee told The Texas Tribune he would lead Paxton’s defense team, though other lawyers also will be involved.
In a new Instagram post Tuesday, Buzbee announced a 2 p.m. Wednesday news conference in Austin “regarding the fatally flawed impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.”
“I will provide further details at that time, which will include our hopes that the process in the Senate will be fair, reasoned and transparent,” Buzbee wrote.
Buzbee is the latest big-name attorney to join the fray in Paxton’s impeachment trial. Texas legal giants Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin will serve as the lead prosecutors for the House impeachment managers, lawmakers announced Thursday.
Buzbee has tried a number of high-profile cases, including his defense of Perry against abuse-of-office charges in Travis County that were eventually thrown out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Those charges stemmed from Perry’s threat to veto funding for the Travis County district attorney’s office Public Integrity Unit if then-District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, did not resign after a drunk driving charge.
After Perry turned himself in for the felony charges in 2014, Buzbee joined him for an iconic photo outside of Sandy’s Hamburgers in Austin, where the former governor and his lawyers posed for a photo with an employee holding ice cream cones.
Buzbee represented more than 20 women who filed lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct against NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson. The athlete was represented by Hardin, Buzbee’s future adversary in the Paxton impeachment trial.
In 2021, Buzbee filed a $750 million lawsuit against rapper Travis Scott on behalf of 120 victims who died or were injured during a crowd crush at the Astroworld music festival.
In 2019, Buzbee ran an unsuccessful campaign for Houston mayor. Running as a Republican, he lost to Democrat Sylvester Turner.
Buzbee had previously identified as a Democrat and ran a losing race for state representative as a member of the party in 2002. From 2003-05, he was chair of the Galveston County Democratic Party.
On the other side of the impeachment fight, DeGuerin defended former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican, against charges that he illegally funneled corporate donations to members of the Texas Legislature in 2002. He also defended former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, from misconduct charges; New York real estate mogul Robert Durst during his 2003 murder trial and acquittal; and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh during the 1993 Waco standoff.
Hardin has represented a long list of celebrities, star athletes and businesses, including Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm at the heart of the Enron bankruptcy scandal that was found guilty of obstruction of justice before the conviction was overturned in a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Other Hardin clients included legendary baseball player Wade Boggs and the estate of Texas millionaire J. Howard Marshall in a dispute with former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.
The Texas House voted 121-23 last month to adopt articles of impeachment accusing Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct, including using the power of his office to help a friend and political donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
Paxton, suspended from office after the vote to impeach, faces a trial before the Senate no later than Aug. 28. Removal from office requires support from two-thirds of senators.
Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.
Disclosure: Tony Buzbee, Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Go behind the headlines with newly announced speakers at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, in downtown Austin from Sept. 21-23. Join them to get their take on what’s next for Texas and the nation.