Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton holds a press conference on June 9, 2016 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to discuss the filing of a lawsuit against the state of Delaware. Photo by Bill Clark for The Texas Tribune.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton holds a press conference on June 9, 2016 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to discuss the filing of a lawsuit against the state of Delaware. Photo by Bill Clark for The Texas Tribune.

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday lost his last-minute bid for a court injunction to prevent the federal government from transferring its oversight of internet registrations to an international body.

Hours before the transition was set to take effect, a federal judge in Galveston ruled against Paxton and three other state attorneys general who had asked him to temporarily halt the transfer while they pursue a lawsuit challenging it. The four sued the federal government late Wednesday after Republicans in Congress, led by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, failed to halt the transfer.

At midnight Friday, the United States is set to cede control of the internet’s domain system — essentially its address book — to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Critics say the move could open up the internet to censorship by unfriendly countries, while administration officials and many tech industry heavyweights say such concerns are misinformed.

In a statement late Friday, a Paxton spokesman called the ruling disappointing.

“It’s a dire day in our country when the president is allowed to unilaterally give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish,” the statement read. “We will continue to weigh our options as the suit moves forward.”

Among other things, Paxton’s lawsuit argues the move violates the property clause of the U.S. Constitution by giving away government property without congressional authorization. In a response to the lawsuit earlier Friday, the federal government criticized it as a last-ditch effort to stop something that has been years in the making — with everyone involved “fully aware” of it.

The ruling by Judge George C. Hanks Jr. came after a hearing in Galveston that lasted more than an hour. His reasoning was not immediately known.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Top image: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton holds a press conference on June 9, 2016 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to discuss the filing of a lawsuit against the state of Delaware. Photo by Bill Clark for The Texas Tribune.

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Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders.