A federal judge has ordered Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura’s attorney to pay $400 to Stephens Media, the parent company of the Review-Journal, to cover the legal costs of getting a hearing opened Tuesday so the newspaper could cover it.
The Review-Journal did not seek reimbursement for legal expenses when it asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach to grant access to the hearing.
In a ruling on Thursday, the judge determined that attorney Robert Pool didn’t follow the court rules in filing a sealed motion. That motion, which was also unsealed, sought to change the court’s minutes of a settlement conference that stated the constable left without permission. Pool and Bonaventura dispute that they left without permission.
The judge ruled that Pool didn’t show good cause for filing his motion under seal, as required by court rules. The $400 must be sent to the newspaper’s legal firm, Campbell & Williams, on or before Aug. 9. Public funding cannot be used to pay the $400. The order prohibits Bonaventura from reimbursing Pool with funds from the constable’s office. If the constable reimburses Pool, he’ll have to do it with his personal funds, the judge ruled.
The 19-page sternly worded order from the judge addresses a host of conflicts in the case. Among them: Bonaventura and his legal team left the settlement conference on July 23 without the judge’s permission, the constable and Pool didn’t show up at a hearing on Tuesday, and Bonaventura’s attorney apparently used a camera in a courtroom without permission from the judge.
“I would hope that after all the nonsense is done away with, we get down to substance and actually deal with the substance,” said Allen Lichtenstein, an attorney who represents one of two fired constable officers suing Bonaventura. “We haven’t been able to do that because of the circus going on.”
Bonaventura and Pool didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The judge also has ordered Bonaventura and Pool to show up in court on Aug. 26 with the cameras that recorded photographs in a courtroom.
The lawsuit centers around Daniel Palazzo, a former captain in the constable’s office, and Timothy Beckett, a former lieutenant, who allege they were fired after they refused to lie at Bonaventura’s request. In their lawsuit, the two allege that Bonaventura wanted them to lie to Clark County commissioners about a reality TV show pilot that showed constable’s deputies using foul language.
The constable’s insurance company, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, offered to settle with the two for between $275,000 and $425,000, depending on whether the constable retracts defamatory statements about them. But Bonaventura didn’t want to settle and sent the insurance company a letter of withdrawal. In response, the insurance company filed a lawsuit seeking a finding that it is no longer responsible for the case.
In his ruling, the judge found Bonaventura and Pool didn’t participate in good faith in the settlement conference on July 23, calling Pool’s preparation “ineffective.”
The judge also wrote: “They did not receive permission to leave the courtroom. The settlement conference was not over, it was just beginning.”
Pool and Bonaventura have until Aug. 14 to explain to the judge why they should not face sanctions for leaving the settlement conference.
The judge found about the use of cameras in his courtroom at the July 23 event from the constable’s own filing. That filing cited “photographic evidence” as part of the constable’s failed attempt to change the court record that shows he left without permission.
The judge didn’t buy Pool’s claim that he never received notice of the Tuesday hearing, when the attorney and Bonaventura didn’t show up. Through the court’s information technology department, the judge determined that the notice was successfully delivered to Pool’s email account.
Within 10 days, Pool is required to notify the court that he has received the order and the constable of the planned court hearing.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.