Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt announces he’s running for Texas attorney general

'Texas deserves an attorney general that will fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens,' Merritt tweeted.

Prominent Dallas attorney Lee Merritt has announced he will run for Texas Attorney General in 2022 against current sitting AG Ken Paxton.

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According to Texas Public Radio Merritt was pushed to seek the office after the recent death of Marvin Scott III. Scott died while in police custody in Collin County jail. Arrested by the Allen Police Department during a manic episode related to schizophrenia, corrections staff had pepper-sprayed him, covered his head with a spit hood, and forcefully tied him down to a bed the outlet reported.

The lawyer is representing the Scott family.

“I’ve decided that this case being the line, that I’m running against Ken Paxton for attorney general in 2022,” Merritt revealed last Friday, according to the report. “I’m tired, tired, tired of getting phone calls.”

Lee Merritt
S. Lee Merritt, Esq attends a Judiciary Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on June 16, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The Republican-led committee was holding its first hearing on policing since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

According to the report, Merritt has identified a pattern in police mishandling residents who need mental health care, often resulting in death. Texas Public Radio listed recent cases of Black men connected by the Civil Rights lawyer, all in Texas who, like Scott, died at the hands of law enforcement during mental health crises. Damian Daniels, an Iraq war veteran was killed by Bexar County sheriff’s deputies after exhibiting paranoia. Darius Tarver, a college student, was killed last year by the Denton Police during a mental health episode.

“Our community — and I don’t mean the Black community, I mean Texas — will die from this,” Merritt said. “It will rip up this state if we don’t address this because they’re going to keep killing us. Law enforcement will keep killing people suffering from mental health crises and it will cause additional trauma to the community.”

Merritt has represented the families of other victims of police violence and brutality including Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson. He also serves as an attorney for the family of Ahmaud Arbery.

“Never mind that they’re veterans, that they’re medical students like Atatiana Jefferson, that they’re accountants like Botham Jean. They’re Black and he just doesn’t see them,” Merritt said of Paxton. “He doesn’t see them.”

Lee Merritt
(L-R) Darrell Craig of iRockCharities, American civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, and youth rights activist Larry Malcolm Smith Jr. stand together at the Commitment March on August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)

“I am running for Attorney General of Texas.,” Merritt tweeted Saturday. “Texas deserves an attorney general that will fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens.”

He uploaded a candid video with his dog, cementing his intention on running for the high-ranked position.

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The current attorney general of the Lone Star state Ken Paxton first assumed office in 2015 and his current term ends on January 17, 2023. According to Ballotpedia, he last ran for re-election and won in the general election on November 6, 2018. He succeeded Greg Abbott who is now the governor of Texas. Both are members of the Republican Party.

The Texas Tribune reported Paxton is being sued by Twitter. According to the news outlet, in a California federal court, the company requested a judge stop Paxton’s inquiry into Twitter. Paxton sent the company a civil investigative demand after it banned former President Donald Trump from using the social media platform. Twitter is one of five social media platforms or tech companies targeted by the AG with civil investigative demands.

According to the report, Twitter wrote that it aims to prevent Paxton “from unlawfully abusing his authority as the highest law-enforcement officer of the State of Texas to intimidate, harass, and target Twitter in retaliation for Twitter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.”

In a January press release, Paxton claimed, “The seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President of the United States and several leading voices not only chills free speech, it wholly silences those whose speech and political beliefs do not align with leaders of Big Tech companies.”

American Conservative Union Holds Annual Conference In Florida
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 27: Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, speaks during a panel discussion about the Devaluing of American Citizenship during the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Merritt is not the only person announced hoping to take Paxton’s place. Former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski had announced his plans to run for the attorney general spot as far back as November 2020, the Texas Tribune reported. The Democrat has a running website and began his official campaign efforts.

According to his platform, Jaworski’s plans include turning Paxton’s voter fraud division into a voter access division, creating a Texas Attorney General Civil Rights Division to protect the civil rights of all Texans, and leading a statewide effort to legalize adult-use recreational purpose cannabis.

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