Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008 | 7:40 p.m.
Unlike this year’s presidential election which has both candidates competing for the title of “maverick” and most likely to create “change,” the race for the empty Nevada Supreme Court justice seat has both candidates claiming they have the right type and amount of experience to serve on Nevada’s highest court.
Schumacher has stated that her time served as judge on the Washoe County District Court in Department Five more than qualifies her to be a justice on the Nevada Supreme Court.
“For the Nevada Supreme Court, one of the critical things to look at is someone’s judicial performance . . . a lot gets said in campaigns and it may or may not be accurate as to what performance they turn out to give once they’re in office,” said Schumacher. “One of the things I offer the voters is that you can look at what I’ve done for the last 11 years.”
But family attorney Kris Pickering contended that her experience appealing cases to the Nevada Supreme Court as an attorney is the ultimate measure of qualification for the Nevada Supreme Court.
“I argued my first appeal in the Nevada Supreme Court in 1981 . . . I understand how to put together an appeal,” Pickering said.
And according to both Schumacher and Pickering, unlike their counterparts in the congressional and executive branches, the job of a judge isn’t to bring about social policy changes, but to keep an open mind and make decisions based upon the facts and how the law relates to those facts.
“I’ve certainly had the experience of being required to enforce laws that you would never have written, but when you become a judge, you swear to uphold the law, not to make the law,” Schumacher said.
Pickering echoed the same sentiments.
“Judges apply the law as it was before them, the court is not a place of social policy,” Pickering said.
This eliminates the personal connection that many voters make with candidates, swaying them to vote one way or the other.
So what is a voter to do?
As stated on the Nevada Supreme Court Web site, the central function of the Nevada Supreme Court is to decide all appeals of civil and criminal cases form the district courts across the state of Nevada. It is the court of last resort.
But for Schumacher, judicial experience and a variety of legal experiences are two of the most important qualifications for any person seeking a seat on the Nevada Supreme Court.
“The best predicter of your future behavior is your past behavior,” Schumacher said.
According to Schumacher, at this time, there isn’t a justice on the Nevada Supreme Court who wasn’t a judge before coming onto the bench.
But, Pickering noted that her opponent’s experience as a family court judge makes up less than 5 percent of the type of cases that are decided on the Nevada Supreme Court.
“Family courts don’t conduct jury trials and fully half and more (cases) are from jury trials at the Nevada Supreme Court level,” Pickering said.
She added that the litmus test she often gives to potential voters is, “If you had a case going before the Nevada Supreme Court, wouldn’t you want people who have tried a case there deciding it?”
Schumacher and Pickering both of legal experience.
“I started out as a commercial, business and civil litigator and then made a turn in my career and added criminal, juvenile, family, guardianship. So I have an unusual breadth of experience,” said Schumacher.
“I have been a Nevada Supreme Court settlement judge since 1997, assisting in resolving cases of appeal . . . I have 28 years experience in state trial courts,” said Pickering.