Abbott taps John Scott, former Texas secretary of state, as interim attorney general

Former Texas Secretary of State John Scott at a press conference in 2022. Abbott tapped Scott to serve as interim attorney general while Ken Paxton awaits a Senate trial on his impeachment. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed Fort Worth lawyer and former Secretary of State John Scott as interim Texas attorney general, temporarily replacing Ken Paxton, who was suspended as attorney general pending the outcome of an impeachment trial in the state Senate.

Scott previously served as deputy attorney general for civil litigation when Abbott led that office. He has more than 34 years of legal experience and has argued more than 100 cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. After leaving the attorney general’s office, he was appointed chief operating officer of the state Health and Human Services Commission, overseeing 56,000 employees and a budget of $50 billion.

"John Scott has the background and experience needed to step in as a short-term interim Attorney General during the time the Attorney General has been suspended from duty," Abbott said in a statement. "He served under me in the Texas Attorney General’s Office and knows how the Office of the Attorney General operates."

Abbott tapped Scott to serve as secretary of state in October 2021. Before leaving the job in December 2022, Scott oversaw elections and struggled to simultaneously assure the public that Texas elections were secure while mollifying those, including supporters of former President Donald Trump, who alleged widespread fraud.

Many feared Scott would be amenable to Trump’s argument that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud because Scott briefly represented the former president in a lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania.

But a 2020 audit of results in four of the largest Texas counties that Scott managed found no widespread fraud or voting irregularities. Local elections administrators, many in populous Democratic counties, praised him for defending their work at a time when they had increasingly come under partisan attack.

As secretary of state, Scott also served in a diplomatic capacity, managing the state’s relationship with Mexico, Texas’ largest trading partner. With cracking down on illegal immigration a top priority for Abbott, Scott helped negotiate pacts with the governors of Neuvo Leon, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas to improve border security efforts.

In 1998, Scott gained national notoriety, at least in legal circles, for winning $28 million in an asbestos lawsuit — at the time, the largest jury verdict of its kind in the United States.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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