If you haven’t been following the saga of John Peyton, the disgraced former probate judge, let’s see if I can break it down for you in one sentence. He slept with a lawyer who had a case in his court, and he didn’t recuse himself, which led to a D Magazine story written by Jamie Thompson, which then led to an investigation into the matter by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, in response to which Peyton resigned rather than face possible disciplinary action, but everything was cool for a bit because his fellow probate judges gave him a job as director of probate operations, whatever that is, thereby raising some serious ethical questions because the Court of Appeals sent the case at the heart of that original D story back to the lower probate courts, the ones presided over by the same judges who had rewarded their friend with that cush job. I think that about sums it up.
Well, after six months on the job, Peyton has resigned. His “notice of separation” form indicates that he quit August 16 for a personal reason. I called Peyton for comment and was surprised to hear that in his outgoing message he still identifies himself as Judge John Peyton. I left a voicemail and will update this post if he returns my call.
Meantime, let me pose this question to the legal community at large: what the heck is going on over in the Dallas County probate courts? There are three elected judges over there. They are Brenda Hull Thompson (who signed Peyton’s separation form), Ingrid M. Warren, and Margaret Jones-Johnson. They knew why Peyton had to step down from his bench. They gave him a job anyway. Peyton’s resignation doesn’t erase that breach of the public’s trust.