Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Judge charged for delaying decisions

CARSON CITY -- Clark County Family Court Judge Terrance Marren, a central figure in a controversial guardianship case, has been charged with taking too much time to make decisions on three divorce cases.

The state Judicial Discipline Commission Tuesday released the formal statement of charge against Marren, a judge with Family Court since its creation five years ago who recently moved to Juvenile Court.

Marren said the cases came "at a time in my life when I was the presiding judge (of the Family Court), and we were literally drowning in cases.

"They (the divorce cases) had to wait too long for a decision. A fact is a fact," he said, referring to delays in making the ruling.

Marren will have a chance to contest the allegations in a public hearing before the commission. But he said he's going to talk with his lawyer in an attempt to reach an agreement. "There's not much to be gained by going to a public hearing," he said.

Marren said they're going to try to work it out with special prosecutor Frank Cremen. Any settlement would have to be approved by the discipline commission.

Marren was the judge in a controversial case where he awarded guardianship of a 16-year-old to the parents of her boyfriend -- without the girls' parents knowledge.

Clark County Family Court has been accused of delays in making decisions, showing gender bias in its rulings and claims of rude judges. A bill has been introduced in the Legislature to abolish the system, and there are proposals for a two-year legislative study of Family Court.

The complaint against Marren said he violated the code of judicial conduct by failing to "promptly, efficiently and fairly" rule on three cases.

The divorce case of Lombardo vs. Lombardo was submitted to Marren on March 29, 1995, but he didn't issue a decision until Jan. 8, 1996. The case of Breitenfeldt vs. Breitenfeldt was taken under submission by Marren on July 1, 1994, but a decision was not made until Feb. 20, 1996. And the Heyborne divorce case was submitted for a decision to Marren on April 19, 1994, but was not resolved until Feb. 28, 1995.

The discipline commission held a closed-door hearing last month in Las Vegas to determine if there was probable cause to bring a complaint. Cremen and Marren had a chance to present their sides.

The commission then decided there was enough evidence to proceed against Marren. Leonard Gang, executive director of the discipline commission, said the formal complaint would be served on Marren later this week. "But he's (Marren) aware of it and he has seen a copy. It's not a surprise to him."

Gang said Marren has 30 days to file an answer, and the hearing will be held within 60 days, unless both sides agree to a delay.

The punishment allowed ranges from removal from office to a censure, reprimand, fine, a public or private apology or a requirement to take remedial courses.

Gang told a legislative committee earlier this year that 58 percent of the complaints about judges involve Family Court matters. And about 90 percent of them come from Las Vegas.

Marren, when responding last month to the move to abolish the Family Court system, said, it has "made heroic attempts against an ever-increasing caseload." A consultant has been hired to make improvements in the system.

The goal is to have every case decided within one year of its filing. Marren said judges who have long-standing cases are reminded they must get moving in making a decision.

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