A federal judge has ordered sanctions against the state of Texas for blowing past deadlines and ignoring a court order to hand over thousands of pages of documents in a lawsuit challenging its voter registration practices. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office’s “months-long delay” in producing the documents “has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming” and has burdened plaintiffs in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio wrote in an order signed Thursday. Garcia ordered the state to pay some of the plaintiffs’ legal fees, including those tied to the sanctions request. The Texas Civil Rights Project last March sued on behalf of four Texans who allege the Department of Public Safety denied them the opportunity to cast a ballot — and violated federal law — by failing to update their voter registration records online.
The group, hoping for quick action during the 2018 election cycle, argued in a motion for sanctions last month that foot-dragging from Paxton’s office was hampering its case. State lawyers turned over less than 2 percent of the 55,000 requested pages by Jan. 17 — a court-ordered deadline set after Texas asked for several extensions.
Texas argued that the Secretary of State’s office was busy dealing with the 2016 general election and that its legal team — with only one attorney assigned to the case — lacked the manpower to respond to the information request.
Garcia rejected those and other arguments. He wrote that Texas had never asked for a deadline extension because of the election, and he suggested that Paxton’s office had plenty of resources.