County attorneys find new judge difficult, even as office employees quit

By Sahar Chmais

HAYS COUNTY – Five weeks into her term as Hays County Court at Law, No. 3 judge, Millie Thompson began raising eyebrows – refusing to work with certain lawyers, attempting to change her office locks, having two employees quit under her management and another employee retiring before intended.

Thompson has also taken other actions – issuing a “criminal trespass warning” to other members of the judiciary, forbidding access to a governmental office with whom she shares common areas. These concerns about Thompson’s actions were addressed in an email from lawyer Chevo Pastrano to Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra and other county staff.

Pastrano goes on to describe working under Thompson as “incredibly chaotic, bi-polar and hostile work environment that currently plagues the county courts-at-law office.”

“To allow all of this nonsense to affect the work of county workers actually accomplishes less efficiency,” Pastrano wrote. “It weighs down the morale and adds work/time wasted by county workers who already have a full-time job with time constraints.”

Some lawyers are speaking up against this new order and are left to wonder why she will not do the job she was elected to perform – serving clients who are members of the public. Refusing to work with certain lawyers causes case delays and a gridlock, said David Sergi, of Sergi and Associates P.C. law firm.

Sergi and Associates law firm also employs attorney Anthony J. Fusco, who ran against Thompson in 2020. The law firm has already seen nine case recusals in the five weeks Thompson has been serving. Now they are objecting.

In the objecting documents, the firm quotes the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct: “a judge shall hear and decide matters assigned to the judge except those in which disqualification is required of recusal is appropriate.”

According to the document, Thompson gave no reason for her recusal and she did not make a request of the Presiding Administrative Judge to assign another judge to the case. The law firm’s cases were transferred to Hays County Court at Law No. 2.

“I’m used to my clients having an equal shot at any court in the county,” Fusco told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “Not only do my clients not have access to three courts, but they no longer have access to allegedly one of the most progressive judges. And most importantly she has no reason for it.”

Even though Fusco is the same political affiliation as Thompson, (who ran on the Democratic ticket) he clarified that political parties should not have an effect on rulings, especially on the county and district level courts.

Fusco wonders if Thompson no longer feels impartial after running against him. And if this is the reason Thompson refuses to work with Fusco and his law firm, why is she letting this get in the way with working with other lawyers outside of Sergi and Associates.

Thompson has recused herself lawsuits in her court from several other lawyers across Hays County.

Traditionally, lawyers and judges move beyond the elections once a new judge is elected or appointed, Sergi added. He mentioned that while he supported Judge Chris Johnson’s opponent in the last election, he has had no problem working with Johnson after he was sworn in.

Many questions remain unanswered. Despite a request by the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch for an interview via phone call or email, Thompson has not responded.

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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