Last year we published a story, “Ardor in the Court,” written by Jamie Thompson, about a probate judge who didn’t recuse himself from a case, even though he had a romantic relationship with a lawyer who was arguing that case in his court. There was some immediate fallout. The judge, John Peyton Jr., resigned rather than face possible disciplinary action. The very next day after that resignation, he was given a job as director of probate operations for Dallas County. It all seemed very convenient. And odd. In February, I spent some time trying to get to the bottom of the deal, even filing an open records request (actually, it was filed on my behalf, another weird twist that you can read about here), but I was left with nothing but unanswered questions. The open records request accomplished nothing. Never heard back.
Now there’s some more news to share. On August 2, the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled that the losing party in that case before Peyton can go back and discover information about his relationship with opposing counsel and continue its lawsuit challenging the $100 million verdict. Here’s the ruling.
Which raises one very important question: will the probate judge now handling this case recuse himself or herself? There are three elected probate judges in Dallas County. They are the ones who gave Peyton his new job. He is their employee. While no one at the probate courts would answer my questions, that’s my understanding. The guy screwed up. How can the people who now employ the screw-up, the people who, in fact, appear to have done the screw-up a favor by giving him a job — how can they be impartial?