District judge questions opponent’s legal eligibility to seek election

District Judge Michael Villani is challenging the qualifications of his opponent, lawyer Ross Smillie.

Villani filed an affidavit Friday with the Clark County Election Department indicating that Smillie is not an attorney who has been “licensed and admitted to practice law” for at least 10 years, as required by Nevada Revised Statutes.

“I find it surprising that Mr. Smillie did not take the time to read the NRS which describes the qualifications to be eligible to the office of district judge,” Villani’s campaign manager, Tom Letizia, wrote in an email Friday.

A message left for Smillie at his law office was not immediately returned.

According to Villani’s challenge of his opponent’s qualifications, Smillie was admitted to practice law in Nevada in October 1987 but went on “inactive status” the same day and remained inactive until February 2009, when he became an active member of the State Bar of Nevada.

“The State Bar has likewise confirmed that it has no records of Mr. Smillie being admitted to practice in any other state or the District of Columbia,” according to the challenge, which argues that inactive members of the bar are not permitted to practice law.

Smillie originally filed as a candidate in Department 10, where District Judge Jessie Walsh sits, but withdrew his candidacy. On Jan. 17, he filed as a candidate in Department 17, where Villani sits.

Villani was appointed to the seat in 2007 and was elected the following year.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.


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