Judge orders Texas AG Paxton to testify in abortion suit a week after he fled home

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Judge orders Texas AG Paxton to testify in abortion suit a week after he fled home

A federal judge has ruled that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton must testify in an abortion lawsuit a week after a court filing said he fled his home to avoid a subpoena seeking his appearance at a hearing in the case.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered Paxton, a Republican, to testify in a suit that seeks to block state prosecutors from going after abortion providers for giving financial and other aid to Texans seeking abortion services out of state.

In August of last year, Pitman had ordered a reversal of his previous ruling, which allowed Paxton to quash a subpoena in the suit, which included several nonprofit Texas abortion funds and an OB-GYN brought against Paxton and local district attorneys.

A process server said last week that Paxton fled his home in a truck driven by his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, to dodge being served a subpoena to appear at a hearing in the case. In a series of tweets, Paxton said he was avoiding a stranger lingering outside my home out of concern for his family's safety.

According to the judge's order, Paxton initially challenged the subpoena on the basis that he was not allowed to testify in a hearing, especially at the eleventh-hour mark. But Pitman said he was forced to change his mind when abortion-rights groups filed a new motion last week citing the various attempts they had made to serve him, including repeated emails that went unanswered ahead of the scheduled hearing.

The Court has issued a ruling on incomplete facts because of the fact that the Court had to decide Paxton's motion to quash on a very limited timeframe, without the benefit of Plaintiffs response, and because the Court relied on Defendant's representations as accurate as when Paxton had been served and notified of his expected testimony.

Abortion-rights groups in the case have accused Paxton and others in court filings of attempts to protect their First Amendment rights to speak about and fund abortion care, arguing that statements made by Paxton have limited their ability to facilitate out-of-state abortions.

The groups called on Paxton to testify after he was told by his attorneys that his efforts to dismiss his suit led him to contradict some of his earlier statements in news releases, tweets and media interviews about his desire to pursue civil penalties and assist in criminal prosecutions against those involved in performing or attempting abortions.

The parties must agree on the details of Paxton's testimony by next Tuesday, according to Pitman.

Paxton, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has been under indicted on securities fraud charges for seven years and has also faced an FBI investigation of allegations by former top aides that he abused his office. In both instances, he denied any wrongdoing.