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August 1, 2014

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Bizarre allegations come to light

By now, many of the allegations against District Judge Elizabeth Halverson are common knowledge: that she ordered her bailiff to massage her neck and feet, that she fell asleep on the bench more than once and that she spoke to juries outside the presence of the lawyers in the case.

But the claims against Halverson, who already has been suspended by state regulators and could face permanent removal from the bench, have taken an extra-bizarre - and possibly criminal - turn.

According to a transcript of the closed-door July 16 hearing in which Halverson's attorneys fought the interim suspension order handed down by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, former Halverson bailiff Johnny Jordan alleged that she ordered him to shoot her husband, Ed.

"She said, 'Pull out your gun and shoot him,' " according to the hearing transcript, which was released by the state Supreme Court on Monday .

When asked whether Jordan thought Halverson was joking, he replied, "She never said she was joking or anything. And then when I didn't reply to it, she looked at Ed and said, 'See, he don't even do what I say.' "

Then, after Ed had left the room, Jordan testified , Halverson told him that she would dispose of the body. " 'You don't have to worry about that,' " she told Jordan, according to the transcript.

One of Halverson's attorneys, John Arrascada of Reno, said although t he transcript had been publicly released, he had to respect the judicial discipline process, which precludes anyone involved in such hearings from commenting on them.

Arrascada said he would relay a message to Halverson to see whether she would comment for this story; she did not call by press time.

Jordan also testified that:

In fact, Halverson is white, and Jordan is black.

Several others testified at the hearing besides Jordan and Spoor, including District Court Chief Executive Officer Chuck Short; District Judge Stewart Bell, who was asked at one point by Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle to talk to Halverson about her conduct; and Deputy District Attorney Lisa Luzaich Rego.

Luzaich Rego testified that she "wanted to throw up" after learning that Halverson had spoken with a jury outside the presence of her and the public defender in a child sex abuse case. The jury was deadlocked at the time, and the conversation could have tainted the case's outcome - a mix of not guilty and hung jury verdicts on different counts.

"There should never ever, ever be any contact between a deliberating jury and anyone, except maybe the bailiff because there's a question or a need (for) a bathroom break or food or something," Luzaich Rego testified.

Luzaich Rego confirmed for Halverson's attorney that she had earlier told a judicial commission investigator that at one point she got so angry that Halverson was sleeping on the bench that she was primed to throw something at her.

She resisted only because the defense lawyer was in her line of sight , she said.

Halverson's next fight will be before the Supreme Court.

In Halverson's attorneys' brief to the court, they argue that the interim suspension is unfair and legally invalid.

"If the commission's decision to suspend Judge Halverson is allowed to stand then no judge is safe," Halverson's attorneys argued, "because every elected jurist is at the mercy of a committee with unfettered discretion to impose an interim suspension any time a complaint is investigated whether it has merit or not."

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Halverson case on Sept . 13, most likely in Carson City.

Although the judicial commission has issued Halverson an interim suspension, it is unclear whether, or when, it will file formal public charges against the judge, a process that could lead to her dismissal.

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