Halverson returns to court

Five floors kept them apart on Friday morning.

On the Regional Justice Center's 11th floor, fledgling District Judge Elizabeth Halverson returned to the bench after an eight-day ban on her presence was lifted by Nevada Supreme Court justices.

"I'm happy to be here," Halverson said. "I'm happy to do what I was elected to do."

Up on the 16th floor, Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle presided over a group of 15 attorneys arguing about a peremptory challenge of the judge assigned to their civil case. She didn't comment on the return of Halverson, who was barred from the county courthouse by Hardcastle's administrative order.

The workplace conflict between the black robes erupted May 10, after Hardcastle determined that Halverson had risked courthouse security by allowing two bodyguards to bypass security checkpoints. Halverson had retained personal security after her bailiff, Johnny Jordan, was reassigned in April.

Jordan, who has a complaint pending against Halverson with the Clark County Office of Diversity, was replaced by bailiffs on temporary duty. Halverson deemed their protections inadequate and precipitated the ban by bringing two bodyguards -- one armed with an extendable metal baton -- into areas restricted to judges and court personnel.

On her first morning back at the Regional Justice Center, Halverson had the protection of three bailiffs in a courtroom peopled by one attorney, one newspaper reporter and a two-person television news crew.

"We offered her whatever level of security she felt was necessary," court administrator Chuck Short said. "We just wanted to make sure that the level of security was where she wanted it to be."

Halverson did not bring her bodyguards to work with her. It was her attorney, Bill Gamage, who accompanied Halverson and her motorized wheelchair up a courthouse ramp and through the building's southernmost public entrance.

"We're not going to really comment," Gamage said when asked whether Halverson still had security concerns. "The judge is just going to do her job today."

This isn't the first time Hardcastle and Halverson have found themselves in opposition. In 2004, Hardcastle fired Halverson from her position as a law clerk, citing the temporary nature of the position. Halverson then unsuccessfully ran for a Family Court judgeship held by Hardcastle's then-husband. After starting her own law firm, Halverson eventually gained her robes by winning a newly created judgeship in November.

Her brief tenure has unfolded in controversy, including the loss of her entire first set of staff members. Hardcastle also restricted Halverson to hearing civil cases in April, following a recommendation from a panel of three veteran judges who wanted Halverson to have more time to learn rules and procedures.

Halverson is challenging Hardcastle's authority to do so in the Nevada Supreme Court, where her attorneys are trying to obtain a hearing in which Hardcastle would have to justify her actions. Hardcastle has until Wednesday to respond.

In the meantime, Clark County's legal business will be conducted in an environment charged with the fallout of a judicial feud. As bailiffs ushered the public through the RJC metal detectors Friday morning, one man asked the bailiffs how things were going.

"Just another day in Camp Run-amok," one bailiff said.