Some social media commentators have recently pointed to legal work performed by the Ashcroft Law Firm for the General Land Office to promote a narrative that the Bush family is somehow responsible for the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The Texas Voice has looked deeper into the work done by the Ashcroft Law Firm for the General Land Office and has found that the social media comments about this contract lack important context and make inferences not supported by the public record.
During the ongoing impeachment trial of Ken Paxton, several of the whistleblowers who raised concerns about Paxton’s conduct to the FBI have testified that they are represented by an attorney named Johnny Sutton and have not yet paid Sutton for his work. Sutton served as United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas during the George W. Bush Presidential administration and is currently a Partner at the Ashcroft Law Firm. John Ashcroft, who served as Attorney General under George W. Bush, is the named Partner of the Ashcroft Law Firm.
A self-styled “investigative reporter” named Sarah Fields posted a tweet yesterday claiming that “It has now been revealed that Sutton was paid $178,100 (beginning Feb 2022) from the Texas General Land Office. As of the publishing of this article, Fields’ tweet has been viewed over 180,000 times and reposted by the likes of Texas Scorecard Publisher Michael Quinn Sullivan and others. Fields’ tweet does not include any references to or screenshots of the contract between the General Land Office and the Ashcroft Law Firm, which is available online.
On December 7, 2021, the General Land Office hired the Ashcroft Law Firm to represent it as well as then-Land Commissioner George P. Bush in a lawsuit filed against President Biden, the Department of Homeland Security, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas alleging that the Biden administration was illegally preventing a border wall that Congress had funded on land owned by the General Land Office.
Earlier this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuit against the Biden administration, and a case related lawsuit brought by Texas and Missouri, could proceed.
The contract named four attorneys with the Ashcroft Law Firm as those performing work on the matters for the General Land Office- Cory Liu, Luis Reyes, Austin Nimocks, and Christopher Peele, and was signed by Liu on behalf of the Ashcroft Law Firm. The contract was later amended to include representation related to a dispute between the General Land Office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development arising from the Land Office’s distribution of Hurricane Harvey relief funds.
At no point was Johnny Sutton ever named in the contract between the General Land Office and the Ashcroft Law Firm, and there were no payments made by the General Land Office to Sutton, as was alleged in Fields’ tweet.
There is also no evidence in the public record that Sutton ever performed any work on behalf of the General Land Office during the time the Ashcroft Law Firm represented it, and Sutton never filed a notice of appearance in the lawsuit brought by the General Land Office against the Biden administration.
The contract between the General Land Office and the Ashcroft Law Firm was terminated on April 27, 2023, after three of the attorneys from the Ashcroft Law Firm who were performing work for the General Land Office left that law firm for other law firms. Cory Liu joined the Butler Snow law firm, while Nimocks and Peele started the Peele Nimocks Law Firm. The termination letter from the General Land Office noted that it had hired Liu’s new law firm, Butler Snow, to represent it in the dispute with HUD and had hired the Pelle Nimocks Law Firm to represent it in the lawsuit against the Biden Administration.
Sutton remains employed by the Ashcroft Law Firm. Had Sutton been involved in the legal matters involving the General Land Office, it is highly improbable that it would have chosen to terminate the Ashcroft Law Firm in favor of the new law firms of the former Ashcroft Law Firm attorneys who are known to have been involved representing the Office in these legal matters.