Judge Halverson banned from courthouse


The District Court chief judge on Thursday banned District Judge Elizabeth Halverson from the county courthouse.

In an administrative order, Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle said Halverson jeopardized security at the courthouse this week by bringing her own two bodyguards into the courthouse and allowing them to bypass security checks.

"Judge Halverson's actions in utilizing unauthorized and unknown bodyguards constitute a breach of courthouse security, which creates a potential danger to the judges, the public and the occupants of the Regional Justice Center," Hardcastle wrote.

On Thursday, Presiding Judges Stewart Bell, Art Ritchie and Betsy Gonzalez recommended to Hardcastle that she bar Halverson from the bench until Halverson agrees to meet with them and "provide assurances that her disruptive behavior and threats to courthouse security will no longer continue," according to the administrative order Hardcastle signed.

Halverson hired the two guards, Stephen Fortune and Nickolas Starling, Wednesday because the bailiff she hired in January, Johnny Jordan, had been reassigned in April and Halverson felt she wasn't adequately protected by the other bailiffs that had been pulling temporary duty in her courtroom, said Michael Sommermeyer, court spokesman.

Court officials said they were able to glean that information after Hardcastle spent an hour and a half Thursday with Las Vegas police. The officers helped resolve a standoff between Halverson and court administration.

Late Thursday, Halverson, through her spokeswoman, said she had only one comment: "The court does not comment on personal matters."

Halverson has claimed in previous interviews, however, that court officials are unhappy she won the election and are vindictively picking on her.

"Hardcastle hates her guts," said Bobbi Tackett, Halverson's friend and temporary judicial executive assistant. "The people who voted for her should scream. They (court officials) couldn't beat her in the election so they're beating her in the public opinion."

Sommermeyer said Jordan, Halverson's former bailiff, was reassigned away from Halverson's courtroom in April after he filed a complaint with the Clark County Office of Diversity.

Jordan has declined to speak to the Review-Journal, but another former member of Halverson's staff spoke out Thursday about the way Halverson treated Jordan and other at-will employees.

"There was always some paranoia, but she's gone nuts," said Ileen Spoor, Halverson's former judicial executive assistant. "She was extremely demanding of the bailiff and very degrading to all of us."

A nine-year courthouse employee who previously worked with District Judge Michael Cherry, Spoor had worked for Halverson since the new judge took the bench in January.

Halverson fired Spoor while Spoor was on vacation for her son's wedding. Spoor said she received a call from human resources informing her of her termination Tuesday.

Spoor said that Halverson had her temporary judicial executive assistant, Tackett, print Spoor's personal e-mails while she was gone.

"She (Halverson) is a state employee. She has no business reading a county employee's e-mails," Spoor said.

Tackett boxed up Spoor's stuff, which she gave to the court administrator, but failed to return a medical file, a personal Rolodex and a large personal file, Spoor said.

Tackett countered she found the e-mails and said they revealed Spoor had no intention of returning to Halverson's chambers after vacation because Short had saved her a position in court administration.

Court administrator Chuck Short went up with Spoor and two bailiffs on Wednesday to get Spoor's personal items and found Halverson locked in her office with her personal security guards, Spoor said.

As they searched the assistant area of the chamber for Spoor's items about 4:10 p.m., Halverson called Las Vegas police alleging there was a threat of some sort against her.

Police called the bailiffs, who are in charge of security at the courthouse. Her security guards told a responding bailiff they were protecting her.

Sommermeyer said that's when court officials first learned of her bodyguards.

"Once it was discovered those individuals were in secured areas of the courthouse, we felt we had a responsibility to identify them and ensure that that did not reoccur," Short said.

One issue officials had with the bodyguards was that only law enforcement personnel are allowed to bring weapons into the courthouse. One of the guards had an extendable metal rod weapon with him in the courthouse, one of the bailiffs learned Thursday. The extendable metal baton would have been confiscated at a security checkpoint if anyone had tried to bring it through the checkpoint, officials said.

Halverson allowed her bodyguards to circumvent the security checkpoints, officials said. She had provided her two bodyguards access to secured areas and escorted them through courthouse security without obtaining background checks and fingerprinting required of all courthouse employees, Sommermeyer said.

Being prohibited from entering the courthouse is just the latest problem for Halverson, who has been under fire for her lack of trial experience coming onto the bench.

Last month, the chief judge took Halverson's criminal and civil cases away from her, citing Halverson's lack of experience, and gave the rookie judge an entirely new stack of only civil cases to learn on.

Halverson said the court had no authority to take her cases and suggested she would defy the chief judge's orders, but wound up complying.

Hardcastle and Halverson have a history of antagonism. Halverson had served as a law clerk for nine years in District Court. The job involves researching decisions for judges, and most law clerks spend only a year or two in the job before practicing law themselves. Citing the temporary nature of the position, Hardcastle fired Halverson in 2004. Halverson ran for a Family Court judgeship against Hardcastle's then-husband.

Halverson lost that race by a narrow margin and started her own firm before running for the newly created judgeship she won in November.

In the four months since she took the bench, she lost the entire first set of staff members she had hired.

Spoor was the last to go and is now serving as a roving judicial executive assistant, a position formerly held by the newly appointed District Judge Michael Villani's new judicial executive assistant.

On Thursday, Spoor recalled seeing Halverson call her bailiff Jordan into her chambers.

Jordan ran in and Halverson threw a pencil over her shoulder, Spoor said. Halverson said, "Go pick that up, I feel like being a judge today," Spoor said.

She also asked Jordan to give her a neck and back massage, Spoor said. She did not know whether Jordan complied.

"They took her bailiff away because they think they can get this poor scared guy to say she sexually harassed him," Tackett said of court officials.

Spoor was able to get her medical records returned but said Halverson still has her Rolodex, which contains a number of Cherry's business contacts.

Tackett said the Rolodex belongs to Halverson.

The judge also has Spoor's personal file, where Spoor said she kept parking tickets for friends, who wanted them given to attorneys to handle.

But Tackett said she did not know whether Spoor had been involved in illegal fixing of tickets and so she gave the file to Halverson.

Whatever Spoor was doing with the tickets, "she had no business doing it under Judge Halverson's watch," Tackett said.

"They stormed her office the other day to get the tickets," Tackett said of Spoor, Short and the bailiff's entry into Halverson's chambers.

Tackett said she quit her job at the courthouse Tuesday because she could not stand to witness the ongoing efforts to destroy Halverson. Tackett said Halverson has made no more mistakes than other new judges have.

"The woman is brilliant," she said. "She's just brilliant."

 

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