A state appeals court sided Tuesday with Attorney General Ken Paxton in his bid for a new judge in his securities fraud case, ruling the current judge lost jurisdiction when he changed venue to Harris County in April.
The court also directed the judge, George Gallagher, to vacate all subsequent orders, including one that set a September trial date.
The ruling by the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals appears to add some uncertainty to the case, though it represents a breakthrough for Paxton's lawyers. For weeks, they have been arguing Gallagher did not have the authority to follow the case out of Collin County.
The appeals court did not explicitly order Gallagher's removal from the case but voiced agreement with Paxton's lawyers that he is "without authority to continue to preside over" it. Paxton's attorneys have repeatedly argued Gallagher cannot follow the case to Harris County because they have not provided written permission as required under the state's Code of Criminal Procedure.
In issuing his opinion Tuesday, Justice Robert Fillmore also lifted a stay the appeals court had put on the trial court proceedings earlier this month.
Paxton has been fighting securities fraud charges for close to two years now. He is accused of misleading investors in a company from before his time as attorney general, and if convicted, he could face up to 99 years in prison.
Before the appeals court intervened in the case, Paxton had been set to face trial on Sept. 12 in Harris County on the lesser of three charges he faces.