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December 21, 2014

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Indicted Family Court judge hit with new complaints

Updated Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 | 9:10 p.m.

Judge Steve Jones

Judge Steve Jones

Family Court Judge Steve Jones, already facing federal fraud charges, has been accused by special prosecutors of the state Commission on Judicial Discipline of misusing his office to help his lawyer girlfriend.

The 12-count complaint filed Friday asks the commission to levy sanctions against Jones if the charges are proven.

Commission special prosecutors William Cooper and Kathleen Paustian compiled evidence that in 2011 and this year he had a "close social and personal relationship" with then Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson. And he refused to disqualify himself in cases handled by Willardson, even though opposing parties asked that he excuse himself from the cases.

The complaint says Jones had his law clerk Himanshu Kumar Rattan and his executive Connie Avila work during their shifts preparing documents to be presented to the State Bar of Nevada on behalf of Willardson.

And Jones himself is accused of working during court hours to prepare legal documents for Willardson to be filed with the state bar.

Jones can answer the complaint and ask for a hearing to disprove the allegations.

The complaint says the rules of judicial conduct prohibit a judge from letting his personal life influence his rulings.

Jones is accused of clashing with then District Attorney David Roger and his staff when they attempted to reassign Willardson to other cases than termination of parental rights in the courtroom of Jones.

The complaint says Jones violated the "integrity and impartiality of the judiciary" by his conduct.

From October 2011 to July this year, the complaint says Jones wrongfully banned Deputy District Attorneys Michelle Edwards and Janne Hanrahan from his courtroom and refused to disqualify himself from their cases because of his personal bias or prejudice.

He directed Hearing Master Brigid Duffy to disqualify herself in cases being handled by Edwards and Hanrahan, say the special prosecutors.

The complaint said Jones failed to promote "confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety."

Jones, who was indicted Oct. 31, is charged in federal court with money laundering, mail and wire fraud and engaging in money transactions in criminally derived property.

He and five co-defendants are accused of defrauding victims of more than $3 million by promoting exorbitant interest rates on the money loans. Government prosecutors said the money was never repaid.

On Nov. 29, the commission suspended Jones from his judicial duties with pay.

Jones will be allowed to answer the complaints, then, within 60 days, the commission will conduct a hearing into the allegations. Should the commission find against Jones, it could impose sanctions, ranging from a public reprimand to barring the Jones from serving in a judicial capacity.

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  1. "The complaint says Jones violated the "integrity and impartiality of the judiciary" by his conduct."

    Ryan -- good job giving us a peek under those black robes. Basically a palatable version of Jones got too comfortable sucking on the public teat. The disappointing part is he gets more due process protections than most of the defendants he passed judgment on.

    In my opinion, based on many years of observing the courts and being the occasional unfortunate consumer, the quality of the average sitting judge is so low it's frightening. With rare exception faithfulness to their oaths and the rule of law is utterly despicable. They will protect their turf and the Bar before administering justice fairly and impartially, and why not? Who's going to do anything about it?

    Judicial discipline should lie with another branch of government and non-attorneys, but wait -- our governor is a member of the Bar and a former judge as well. And our legislature is infested with Bar members in open defiance of their oaths to support, protect and defend separate powers .... end of rant.

    "The legal system has also been wounded by lawyers who themselves no longer respect the rule of law ..... When lawyers cannot be trusted to observe the fair processes essential to maintaining the rule of law, how can we expect the public to respect the process?" -- the Honorable Edith Jones to Harvard's Federalist Club "American Legal System Is Corrupt Beyond Recognition, Judge Tells Harvard Law School" 2/28/03