Las Vegas Sun

July 26, 2014

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SUN EDITORIAL:

Judicial candidates vying to take the bench

Our recommendations for the 10 contested seats in Family Court

Although it is a state District Court, Family Court in Clark County has gotten a bad reputation as a second-rate court.

That reputation has been furthered by the actions and decisions of some judges, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Family Court is a difficult assignment for any judge because of the highly emotional nature of the cases. Many attorneys don’t want the job, which is a shame. The court, whose calendar includes divorce, domestic violence and juvenile matters, demands well-qualified, skilled judges.

This year there are 10 contested Family Court races, and five of those are for new seats.

In Department G, Judge Cynthia “Dianne” Steel is running for reelection. She has been on the court since 1997 and has served three terms as the presiding judge. She is now the lead judge in a program to improve the efficiency of the courts and has worked through her large caseload. The Sun endorses Cynthia “Dianne” Steel.

Attorney Greta Muirhead is challenging Judge Cheryl Moss in Department I. Although hard working, Moss is largely seen as ineffective, and after eight years it is time to let someone else take the bench. Muirhead has been an attorney for more than 17 years and primarily handles family law cases. She is also an alternate hearing master in Family Court. Our hope is that she becomes a good addition to the bench. The Sun endorses Greta Muirhead.

Attorney Kenneth Pollock is challenging Judge Lisa Kent in Department J. Kent has been a judge since 2000, but has not done an effective job and is not well regarded by many attorneys who practice in Family Court. Pollock, who has unsuccessfully run for other judgeships, has been an attorney for 17 years and serves as an alternate municipal judge in Las Vegas and as an arbitrator. The Sun endorses Kenneth Pollock.

Longtime attorney Vincent Ochoa is running for the seat in Department K. Ochoa has a solid reputation as an attorney in Family Court. He cares about the practice of family law, is well regarded in the community and has the experience and ability to be a fine judge. He is the best choice in the race. The Sun endorses Vincent Ochoa.

Judge Jennifer Elliot is running for reelection in Department L. She has worked hard, has a good temperament and is hoping to make changes to increase the efficiency in the court system. We see no reason to change. The Sun endorses Jennifer Elliot.

Mathew Harter is running for the new Department N seat. He has the qualifications, the knowledge and the demeanor to do the job. As well, he shows a dedication to the court and the community. The Sun endorses Mathew Harter.

Frank P. Sullivan, a hearing master in Family Court, is running for the new Department O. We have supported his opponent, Ron Israel, in the past and have no quarrel with him, but in this case, Sullivan is the clear choice. Sullivan, president-elect of the Clark County Bar Association, has made a commitment to Family Court that stretches beyond the courtroom — he does significant work in the community involving juveniles. Sullivan also has a great understanding of the law. The Sun endorses Frank P. Sullivan.

The race for the new seat in Department P is unusual because it features a sitting judge running for a different seat. Longtime attorney Jack Howard is running against Judge Sandra Pomrenze, who has two years left in her term in Department E. Pomrenze is running for the new department because, she says, the Legislature may eliminate her current seat in a court restructuring plan. We don’t know anyone who believes the Legislature will eliminate much-needed court seats, especially considering lawmakers just expanded the judiciary in the last session. We agree with Howard, an experienced family law practitioner with a nice demeanor, who says the best way to get more quality judges is to elect him. That way, voters will have both Howard and Pomrenze on the bench. The Sun endorses Jack Howard.

Bryce Duckworth is facing Carl Piazza for the new seat in Department Q. We like Piazza but he’s running against the best candidate in not only this race, but also arguably the best in all the contested Family Court races. Duckworth is head of the State Bar of Nevada’s family law section and is a smart, skilled and well-respected practitioner. He was also one of three finalists recommended to the governor for a recent appointment to the Family Court bench. The Sun endorses Bryce Duckworth.

Attorney Chuck Hoskin is running against Bill Henderson, who has received our support in the past, for the new Department R seat. Hoskin is clearly the best candidate in the race. He is smart and knowledgeable. He has experience as a Family Court judge pro tem and is well regarded — like Duckworth, he was a finalist for appointment to the recent opening on the Family Court bench. The Sun endorses Chuck Hoskin.

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