Law

Disgraced Former Judge John Peyton Finds a New Job

The folks at the Dallas County probate courts are so forgiving.

On February 2, a Dallas County probate judge named John Peyton resigned from the bench rather than face possible disciplinary action from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. That day, I posted his resignation agreement, which referenced an earlier D Magazine story, “Ardor in the Court,” that led to the investigation into his conduct.

Peyton wasn’t out of work long. The very next day, February 3, his certified profile on the Texas State Bar site showed that he is now director of probate operations for Dallas County, whatever that is. The role does not appear to have existed prior to February 3, from what I can tell. Oddly enough, that same Texas State Bar certified profile says that Peyton is a full-time judge.

I wish could tell you more about what’s going on here, but it seems no one wants to talk about Peyton’s very short, successful job hunt. Here are the roadblocks I hit:

Peyton himself has yet to return my phone call. Not surprising. What is surprising: in the outgoing message on his cellphone, he identifies himself as a judge.

I got his personal lawyer, Randy Johnston, on the phone, but he didn’t have time to talk. He was rushing to catch a flight. I’ve emailed him questions. We’ll see.

The phone number listed on Peyton’s Texas State Bar page is the number for Judge Brenda Thompson’s probate court. Messages left there have so far gone unreturned.

Since Peyton is now working for Dallas County, I called the human resources department there. Yesterday I was told that I could speak today with the assistant director, José Melendez, but when I called again, his office put me on a lengthy hold before telling me that I needed to call the people in the civil division of the District Attorney’s Office. Basically, these are the in-house lawyers for the county (as opposed to the lawyers in the DA’s Office that prosecute criminals).

Funny thing happened when I called that office. I was connected to a lawyer named Randall Miller, who said he was in receipt of my open records request. I told Miller that I had filed no such request; all I’d done was call around, trying to learn who was the best person to answer my questions about John Peyton’s job-hunting skills. No matter. A request has apparently been filed on my behalf. That gives the people in the DA’s office 10 working days to answer the questions I never submitted in writing — assuming they don’t appeal to the AG’s Office.

Here are the questions I posed to Miller on the phone and that I hope to get answers to:

What is the job description for a director of probate operations?

Did the position exist before February 3?

Was the job opening ever publicly posted?

What does it pay?

Is Mary Burdette — the lawyer with whom Peyton was having an affair when she tried a case in his court, the no-no that led to the D Magazine story — still trying cases in the probate courts whose operations Peyton is now a director of?

What the holy heck, exactly, is going on in the Dallas County probate courts?

Actually, I’m lying. I didn’t ask the Burdette question because I know the answer. And I didn’t ask the last question because it seemed overly broad. As for the other questions, I’ll keep after it and let you know when I get some answers.

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