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We recently had to fire an employee for cause. After we sent an email to the former employee asking for a password to an account that belonged to the business, we received a reply from a person who represented themselves as the lawyer for the employee. The content of the email was:

Have your attorney contact me to discuss. I’ve instructed my client not to discuss this matter with you directly.

The sender of this email is a sitting county judge in my state (Texas). Google tells me that sitting judges are not ethically allowed to practice law here. Should I file a bar complaint?

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    Just by the way, it is very likely that the "forgot password" procedure for any outside account will email the ex-employee's company email address. You should be able to hit "forgot password" in that system (or however they do it) and have your IT guy see this coming back. If you have a choice between a technical solution or engaging with an attorney, I suggest the former!
    – Graham
    Apr 29 '20 at 15:59
  • @Graham: Accessing the former employee's company email address can be illegal too under certain jurisdictions. So check that before! But the US tends to be weaker on privacy rights, so in Texas it's probably okay.
    – Nyos
    Apr 29 '20 at 20:13
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    @Nyos Only potentially their old emails, not the email address itself. So if you're somewhere where this is an issue, it's easy enough to delete existing emails off the server sight unseen, and then use the email address to do this.
    – Graham
    Apr 29 '20 at 21:03
  • @Graham we definitely have that capability, and can resolve this specific issue on our own if it comes to that. The question is more about how seriously I need to take the former employee's implied threat to sue us. Apr 29 '20 at 21:23
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    @Graham: or set up a forward / alias / redirect for that account so new mail goes somewhere else, separate from any previously existing inbox. Then you don't have to delete anything or log in to the existing account in any way. Apr 30 '20 at 3:27
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No, the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct permits County Judges to practice law except "in the court on which he or she serves or in any court subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the county court, or acting as a lawyer in a proceeding in which he or she has served as a judge or in any proceeding related thereto."

This is because County Judges in Texas are not judges in the classical sense. They are more like the CEO of a given County.

( cited above is Canon 6(B)(3))

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    Concerning the second paragraph, comparing judges to county CEOs: Having moved to Texas recently, I was fairly surprised to find judges acting like members of the executive branch in regards to COVID-19. Wide-sweeping, court-agnostic executive orders that I would normally expect from people like mayors, governors, and perhaps even sheriffs have been handed out multiple times from judges. IMHO, this is a step back from healthy democracy, and it just adds to the reasons that I want to move back to Arizona as soon as possible. Apr 29 '20 at 12:44
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    @Panzercrisis en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commissioners%27_court#In_Texas That may help clarify. They are like the president of what would be equivalent to city council for the county. So I expect those orders may have actually been voted on, and as the presiding member he would sign them.
    – David Reed
    Apr 29 '20 at 14:17
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    @chrylis-onstrike- It's too much power for one person to hold. David Reed's comment and the link he provided made me feel a bit better about it, but in that link is the following phrase: ...the court's role combines elements of judicial, legislative, and executive functions. (I haven't read over the whole thing thoroughly yet, but think I've gotten the gist.) In American politics, power is conventionally divided between three branches of government, and a system of checks and balances helps keep each branch accountable to the other two. ... Apr 29 '20 at 16:59
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    ... This helps keep one branch from getting too powerful, which then helps limit its ability to do bad things (intentional or unintentional). By taking a judge and having the same exact person double as a sort of "county mayor", you're kind of doing away with this separation of powers. The judge does apparently sit within a greater council, which makes me feel better, but that alone is spreading the same individual between judicial and legislative roles. ... Apr 29 '20 at 16:59
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    Apparently the degree of the county judge's involvement in judicial matters changes a lot depending on the county, and while some counties mix them between the roles of "judge" and "county administrator", others just use them mainly as "county administrators", which is good. Apr 29 '20 at 17:12

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