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Texas Supreme Court Declines to Review Kelcy Warren’s Defamation Suit Against Beto O’Rourke

Without any additional explanation, the state's highest court declined to take up Warren's 2022 suit against the former candidate for governor.
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Kelcy Warren, photographed in 2020. Trevor Paulhus

Kelcy Warren’s defamation lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is officially dead. On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court declined to take up the case, which a state appellate court dismissed in June. We last provided an update on the defamation lawsuit filed by the Dallas resident and Energy Transfer co-founder more than a year ago

The Republican megadonor sued O’Rourke in 2022, claiming that the candidate defamed him when he referred to Warren’s $1 million donation to Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign as being “pretty close to a bribe,” or quid pro quo to ensure that the state would go easy on energy companies in the wake of 2021’s Winter Storm Uri. O’Rourke also criticized the $2.4 billion Energy Transfer Partners made during the energy grid failure during Uri. Warren stepped down as CEO in 2020 but remains the company’s board chairman. 

O’Rourke lost to Abbott in November 2022, capturing 43.9 percent of the vote to Abbott’s 54.8 percent.

O’Rourke’s lawyers won a dismissal in June from the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The three-judge panel ruled that “we hold that an examination of the statements and their context from the position of a reasonable person shows they are non-actionable opinions and fall within the bounds of protected speech.”

Warren then asked the Texas Supreme Court to review that ruling. He argued that although it’s not uncommon “in the world of bare-knuckle politics that politicians will say horrible things” about their opponents, O’Rourke’s statements went beyond that because they targeted a private citizen.

“Left to stand, the Austin Court’s decision provides politicians with carte blanche to defame anyone—rich or poor, strong or meek—without recourse,” the petition said

The court, which is entirely Republican, declined to review it Friday with no additional comment. It appears the lawsuit is dead.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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