A federal judged urged parties in the lawsuit that is roiling the Las Vegas Township constable’s office to settle the dispute, but only after he chastised a lawyer in the case for myriad missteps along the way.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach spent much of a hearing Monday seeking explanations for apparent mistakes by Robert Pool, the attorney Constable John Bonaventura hired to represent the office at public expense.
Bonaventura’s office is the subject of a lawsuit by former deputies Dan Palazzo and Tim Beckett, who say they were fired after refusing to lie to the Clark County Commission about a botched attempt by the office to participate in a reality television show.
The failed attempt resulted in footage of constables using foul language and engaging in otherwise unprofessional conduct while on the job.
Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, which insures the constable’s office, has offered to settle the case for either $275,000 if Bonaventura retracts defamatory statements about the ousted deputies or $425,000 if he doesn’t.
After the insurance company offered to pay, Bonaventura sought to withdraw the insurance claim because he opposed cutting a deal.
In response, the insurance company officials took Bonaventura to court, stating they have the authority to settle the claim as they see fit.
The Monday hearing covered a series of motions and issues, many of them mistakes by Bonaventura’s team.
In addition to reminding Pool about everything from the importance of filing documents in accordance to court rules to remembering to stand when addressing the court, Ferenbach emphasized that a settlement could be in the best interests of everyone involved, including taxpayers.
“Appearing in this court is a privilege, and it requires compliance with the rules,” Ferenbach said.
Among the mistakes, Ferenbach chided Pool for submitting documents without notifying the other attorneys in the case and for rolling several issues about the case into a single filing when they should have been separate.
“I simply didn’t have time to get each one done, and I didn’t want to be late and I put them all together,” said Pool, who was joined at court by attorney Thomas Pitaro.
Pool and Bonaventura also admitted to taking photos in the courtroom, another violation of the rules. Pool said he took the photos for personal reasons.
“It was a nice courtroom; I was going to share it with my wife,” Pool said. “Obviously, I will never do that again.”
Ferenbach asked Pool whether he had prepared one of the documents filed with his signature, questioning the attorney whether he was even familiar with the specifics of a case cited as precedent. He also chided Pool for a failure to appear earlier in the case by claiming to have not received notice from the court though it had been sent to his email address.
Pool’s mistakes dominated discussion, but Ferenbach said both sides should work to get settlement talks back on track. Although the judge noted the defendants are entitled to take the case to trial and won’t be punished for failing to settle, there are some risks.
If the settlement Travelers offered falls through and the defendants lose at trial, taxpayers could be on the hook for the money, the judge noted.
Conversely, if it is determined Bonaventura doesn’t have taxpayer support in the case and loses at trial, he might be unable to pay a potential judgment, in which case plaintiffs would be denied money to which they would be entitled.
“This is a case that should settle,” Ferenbach said before setting a settlement conference for Nov. 12.
Allen Lichtenstein, one of the attorneys representing the ousted deputies, said afterward he agreed a settlement could be better than a trial. “The constable has no logical incentive to drag this out and not settle,” Lichtenstein said.