Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Supreme Court: Family court judge must leave office

CARSON CITY – Family Court Judge Robert Teuton, appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons last August, must vacate the office, the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled.

The court, in a 6-1 decision, said Teuton’s term expired on Jan. 5, 2009.

The court, with a majority opinion written by Justice Michael Cherry, said the appointment of Teuton in August lasted only until January this year to allow the office to be put on the ballot at the next general election, which was in November last year.

Cherry said the provision was inserted in the Nevada Constitution “to allow Nevada citizens to elect a new district judge as soon as possible after an office becomes vacant.”

The court added that decisions issued by Teuton since Jan. 5 are still valid.

The family court judgeship was not put on the 2008 general election ballot. Gibbons, Teuton and the Family Law Section maintained that Teuton’s term expires in January 2011 after the office is on the ballot in the 2010 general election.

A suit was filed by former family court Judge Robert Lueck but the Supreme Court said he did not have standing to bring the action.

The court agreed to decide the case on its own. Cherry wrote, “we conclude that judicial vacancy appointments expire on the first Monday in January after the first general election following that appointment, without exception.”

The court is issuing a writ of mandamus telling Gibbons to declare Teuton’s office vacant. But there is nothing to prevent the governor from appointing Teuton to the office until January 2011.

Justice Mark Gibbons dissented. He said Nevada law prohibited any change in the general election ballot after Aug. 19, 2008. That was three days before Judge Teuton was appointed.

Gibbons said a prior Nevada Supreme Court opinion held that the “vacancy for the office of district judge by election as soon as practicable after the vacancy occurs.” He said the majority’s decision is “contrary to the election priorities of this state.”

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