Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

JUDICIARY:

Voters to decide whether judges are elected or appointed

Ballot question asks: Elect or appoint them?

Sun Coverage

2010 General Election

Zip Code
Party Affilliation
Democrat — 60.9%
Republican — 19.1%
Independent — 15.2%
Other — 2.3%
Tea Party of Nevada — 0.8%
Green — 0.7%
Libertarian — 0.7%
Independent American Party — 0.3%
Who are you voting for in the U.S. Senate race?
Harry Reid — 70.7%
Sharron Angle — 26.9%
Scott Ashjian — 1.1%
Wil Stand — 0.5%
Tim Fasano — 0.3%
Jesse Holland — 0.3%
Jeffrey C. Reeves — 0.3%
Michael L. Haines — 0%
Who are you voting for in the Nevada gubernatorial race?
Rory Reid — 61.6%
Brian Sandoval — 32.3%
David Scott Curtis — 2.9%
Eugene "Gino" Disimone — 1.1%
Aaron Y. Honig — 0.8%
Floyd Fitzgibbons — 0.7%
Arthur Forest Lampitt Jr. — 0.6%
Who are you voting for in the U.S. House District 3 race?
Dina Titus — 66.2%
Joe Heck — 29.4%
Barry Michaels — 2.1%
Joseph P. Silvestri — 1.9%
Scott David Narter — 0.5%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Judges on the Nevada Supreme Court and in the state’s District Courts make tough decisions that affect people’s lives. On Tuesday, voters will make a tough decision that will affect judges’ lives: How should they be selected?

A vote for Question 1, a proposed state constitutional amendment, means judges initially would be appointed by the governor and face voters in subsequent elections if they want to stay in office.

A vote against Question 1 means the public would continue to elect Supreme Court and District Court judges from their first full terms.

The issue is one of two on the ballot involving courts. Question 2 asks voters whether to establish an appellate court system in Nevada, an appeals process that is widely adopted across the country.

The outcome of Question 1 could heavily influence the quality of people who serve on the bench, the role of campaign financing in judicial elections and the public’s faith in the courts.

Nevadans for Qualified Judges leads support for the measure with a war chest of more than $250,000 — much of it from gaming companies and law firms. Backers include powerful groups such as the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Culinary Union and the Nevada State Bar Board of Governors. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor lent her name to the cause.

The opposition is not as well organized, but has history on its side. Nevadans rejected similar proposals in 1972 and 1988. But the question made the ballot again after the state Legislature approved joint resolutions in 2007 and 2009 to place the measure before voters.

Question 1 would create a Judicial Selection Commission that would forward a list of nominees to the governor. This is how vacancies are filled when judges leave their posts before the end of their terms.

Appointed judges would face the electorate in the next general election at least a year after their appointments. A separate Judicial Performance Commission would evaluate judges based on input from attorneys, witnesses and the public who have dealt with them in court, with findings available to voters. Judges would need at least 55 percent of the vote to retain their seats.

Vacancies created by those who are not retained would start the process anew.

One ardent supporter, retired Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Maupin, said appointing judges “takes campaign financing out of the initial selection process.”

With current judicial races, “what the average person generally sees ... are TV commercials with 30-second spots and that’s it,” he said.

If the measure passes, Maupin predicts that nominees will come from more diverse backgrounds rather than being exclusive to individuals adept at raising large amounts of campaign cash.

“Colorado and Arizona have retention elections, and their former chief justices have told me that the diversity of the bench has been improved in those states,” Maupin said.

The proposed process would be business friendly, said Veronica Meter, Las Vegas Chamber’s vice president of government affairs.

“Impartiality is so important to the business community,” she said. “The current setup is more about highly politicized campaigns by judges than it is about experience. The business community likes to know that when judges look at cases, they’re consistent and impartial.”

Other supporters, such as Las Vegas attorney Marshal Willick, say the evaluation process would give voters far more information on judicial candidates than they now receive. Evaluations also would let judges know they are being watched, he said.

“This will weed out people who aren’t qualified,” Willick said.

And with a retention election, he said: “When you don’t have a person running against you, you don’t have to raise an insane amount of money.”

Question 1 supporters are quick to add that many attorneys and law firms have felt pressured to contribute to judicial campaigns for the potential of better treatment for their clients in court.

But Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, among the lawmakers who opposed the joint resolutions, opposes Question 1 because he said retention elections would be bad for voters.

“This means the judge won’t even have an opponent,” Manendo said. “It will be easy for them to be retained. It will be difficult to defeat someone who is the only person on the ballot.”

Opponents say judges would still need to raise money to run in retention elections, meaning they would continue to rely on attorneys and law firms for financial support.

Another Question 1 foe, Janine Hansen of Elko, said it would “take away from the people the right to determine who their judges are.”

Hansen, state president of the politically conservative Nevada Families Eagle Forum, said the merit selection process for nominating judges would be dominated by elitists who don’t represent the public’s best interests.

“The system we have now is not perfect, but it’s better than giving up the right to vote,” she said.

When the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the resolution in 2007, opponents included Sharron Angle, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former assemblywoman who was speaking at the time as a private citizen. She objected that the proposed nine-member Judicial Selection Commission would include five attorneys.

“I would say that this bill will engender a more cronyistic system because attorneys will now be choosing attorneys,” Angle said.

Also on the ballot is Question 2, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to establish an intermediate appellate court. Appeals from District Courts go to Nevada Supreme Court.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 8 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. There are good arguments on both sides of Question 1, but the arguments are silent because the public was not informed of the details. A democracy is effective when the citizens are educated on the process of government. Question 1 is being backed by groups and individuals that are not trusted by the public. The Merits of Question 1 are not known to the voters of Nevada. I see this ballot measure being soundly rejected by Nevada voters, not because this is not good for Nevada, but mainly because Nevada voters were not properly informed. In addition, there is a trust factor from Nevada voters to the supporters on Question 1.

    A well informed public can trust the supporters of a ballot question and still reject the ballot question, but in our case, here in Nevada, the supporters of Question 1 failed to provide the public information necessary to make an informed decision. The supporters of Question 1 failed to establish trust with Nevada voters.

    To the supporters of Question 1:
    Inform the public, be open and honest. Hold town hall meetings, show the voters you are concerned with having an open process, state your position on the merits and benefits to the community.

    I agree, judges must be qualified, and impartial and not beholding to campaign donors and supporters. On the other hand, judges should not be selected through a good-ole-network.

  2. This is a tough decision. As a retired lawyer in Canada, where judges are appointed, the process has become quite political. The ruling political party in each Province appoints the judges, and tends to select mostly from their own party faithful.
    On the other hand, electing judges seems even more problematical. Judges with deep pockets (or rich backers) can win despite poor qualifications. At least voters can turf out a judge whose decisions they strongly disagree with.
    Good luck making the right choice.

  3. Chunky says:

    Election not appointment.

    or

    Maybe there could be a bipartisan group (if there's really such a thing) that would present a qualified collection of candidates We The People can vote on.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  4. I have mixed feelings about this one.

    There is a level of accountability that comes when an official has to stand for reelection or On the other hand, there is just too much money involved with campaigns these days.

    I think the elected model may have made some sense 50 or 100 years ago, but not today. Las Vegas, the state have changed as has the world would suggest that an system of appointments would be appropriate.

    I am not sure if the model proposed here solves this problem. Are we getting the best or worst of both approaches?

    I do have a great deal of respect for Justice O'Connor and her opinion counts with me.

    As you can tell I am waffling on this one and probably won't make up my mind on this one until Tuesday.

  5. I can't believe that I actually agree with Sharron Angle on an issue.

    Bleh!

  6. I'm leaning towards a "yes" vote on Question 1, but am leery because of the groups backing it. The theory is attractive, but the implementation can lead to the same charges of corruption.

    I might well still decide to keep the devil I know.

  7. if only question 1 were on the ballot i could support appointment, then face voters after some decisions were made. if governor makes some bad appointments, -both- judge and gov get ousted next time arond. ok, i can live with that.

    if only question 2 were on the ballot i would positively support an appeals process between district and supreme ct.

    since there are both questions to answer at once i could only support q-2 this time around but q-1 next time around.

    get the appeals courts in place in the manner which nevada already undersatands (which also prohibits a single gov from stacking the deck at the git-go).

    then, after teh appeals cts are operating, approve the appoint/elect sequence, q-1. both together si too fraught with tampering opportunities, imo.

  8. Las Vegas, Nevada Veterans In Politics International, Inc. and Canyon Springs High School and the Leadership and Law Preparatory Academy proudly present the 1st annual 'Meet & Greet Your Clark County District Court Judges' on Saturday -- August 17, 2013 from 9am-1pm PT at Canyon Springs High School. Canyon Springs High School is located at 350 East Alexander Road, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89032. The purpose of this event is to promote voter education about the Clark County 2014 General Election and is crucial in training our future leaders, improving access to justice, and promoting transparency of our judicial system.

    Students from Canyon Springs High School will be presented with the opportunity to participate in the 'Shadow a Judge for a Day Program'. This program enables students to spend a day with a judge and develop a better understanding of how courtrooms function. Participating judges represent Dpt. s including civil, criminal, and family. Students are encouraged to share their experiences at the event. Moderators will give each Judge an opportunity to introduce themselves and share their background.

    This spectacular event will be moderated by two outstanding leaders in our community: Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn.

    Judges:

    The Eighth Judicial District Court is served by 52 elected judges. There are 32 civil/criminal judicial departments and 20 family/juvenile judicial departments.

    35 District Court Judge has confirmed their attendance. 24 civil/criminal judicial departments and 11 family/juvenile judicial departments for the "First Annual Meet and Greet your Clark County District Court Judge.

    Civil/Criminal Division Judges

    Dept. Judge

    I Kenneth C. Cory
    II Valorie J. Vega
    IV Kerry Earley
    V Carolyn Ellsworth
    VI Elissa Cadish
    VIII Douglas E. Smith
    XII Michelle Leavitt
    XIII Mark R. Denton
    XIV Adriana Escobar
    XV Abbi Silver
    XVI Timothy Williams
    XVII Michael Villani
    XVIII David Barker
    XX Jerome T. Tao
    XXI Valerie Adair
    XXII Susan Johnson
    XXIII Stefany A. Miley
    XXVI Gloria J. Sturman
    XXVII Nancy L. Allf
    XXVIII Ronald J. Israel
    XXIX Susan W. Scann
    XXX Jerry A. Wiese
    XXXI Joanna S. Kishner
    XXXII Rob Bare

    Family Division Judges

    Dept. Judge

    G Cynthia Dianne Steel
    H T. Arthur Ritchie, Jr.
    I Cheryl B. Moss
    J Kenneth E. Pollock
    K Cynthia N. Giuliani
    L Jennifer Elliott
    M Bill Potter
    O Frank P. Sullivan
    Q Bryce C. Duckworth
    R Bill Henderson
    S Vincent Ochoa

    Additional Judges will be announced as their participation is confirmed. The Moderator and Judge lineups are subject to change without notice.