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September 19, 2014

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Judge must apologize to woman he jailed

Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad is going to have to apologize formally to a woman he jailed for two hours because her boyfriend did not show up in court to pay four-year-old traffic tickets.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Assad violated the judicial code of ethics, but decided a public censure approved by the state Judicial Discipline Commission was too strong.

Besides apologizing to Ann Chrzanowski, Assad must enroll at his own expense in the next available judicial ethics class at the National Judicial College, the court said in a 5-2 decision.

Joshua Madera was summoned to appear in court March 31, 2003, to clear up unpaid tickets dating to 1999. When Madera called the court to seek a continuance because he was starting a new job that day, a clerk told him he could not obtain a continuance over the telephone.

Madera then told the clerk he “knew someone in Metro,” referring to the police, a comment she interpreted as a threat. Madera said later he did not mean it that way.

Chrzanowski, Madera’s girlfriend, then called the court and was told she could appear in his place.

When Chrzanowski appeared, Assad ordered her to call Madera to tell him to come to court.

“Tell him you’re going to jail if he doesn’t get his butt down here,” the judge said.

Chrzanowski was handcuffed and made the telephone call. She then was placed in a holding cell. Madera showed up two hours later and arranged a payment plan.

His girlfriend said she was frantic because marshals refused to allow her to call her work to say she would likely be unable to show up that night.

At the discipline commission hearing, Assad said he had not intended for

Chrzanowski to be held after she made the call. But Marshal Raul Saavedra said he interpreted the judge’s comments to mean the woman was to be jailed until Madera appeared.

Madera had not paid any tickets when the discipline commission met in November 2006, seven years after some of them had been issued.

•••

A veteran state worker has been named chief of the much-criticized state Licensure and Certification Bureau, which inspects medical facilities and labs.

Marla McDade Williams was appointed to the $85,524-a-year job by state Health Division Administrator Richard Whitley.

She succeeds Lisa Jones, who retired after the hepatitis C scare in Clark County was traced to outpatient surgery clinics that had not been inspected for years.

Williams was program manager of the Women’s Health Connection in the state Health Division. Before that, she was program manager of the Health Division’s hepatitis program and a senior research analyst for the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

•••

A state prisoner serving a sentence for a nonsex crime does not have to be cleared by a psychological panel before being released on parole, the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said the state parole board erred in requiring an inmate, once convicted of a sex crime, to undergo a second psychological exam when he sought parole on a later nonsex crime.

The decision overturned the ruling of District Judge Jennifer Togliatti in the case of Eric Todd Douglas, now serving a 14- to 48-month term for attempted burglary.

Douglas, now 41, was convicted in 1996 of robbery and attempted sexual assault. He was cleared by a psychological panel and released from prison but later was arrested and convicted on the attempted burglary charge.

When he sought parole after returning to prison, the parole board held that he had to undergo another psychological exam. This time the psychological review panel did not clear him, prompting the board to deny Douglas parole.

The court’s ruling said requiring additional psychological certifications produces “absurd results” whereby the state could require a prisoner freed years earlier after serving a sentence on a sex charge to undergo an exam if he sought parole on a nonsex crime.

The ruling entitles Douglas to a new parole hearing.

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