Judge Jones: Timing of disciplinary hearing could hinder re-election

In a new bid to stop next month’s judicial discipline proceedings against him, suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones argues the process will harm his ability to file for re-election.

The voters would be denied an opportunity to re-elect Jones if the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is allowed to proceed with a Dec. 2 hearing and take action against the judge, his attorney, James Jimmerson, argued in court papers filed with the Nevada Supreme Court last week.

An appeal of the commission’s action would not be resolved before the two-week filing period for judicial office in January, Jimmerson wrote.

“If the commission wrongfully continues to proceed with the hearing, the commission would have the ability to bar Judge Jones from running for re-election,” Jimmerson said.

If Jones is able to delay the hearing past January, he would be allowed to run for re-election as a suspended judge.

The commission suspended Jones after his unrelated federal indictment in November 2012, charging him with participating in a $3 million investment fraud scheme that spanned a decade. Jones has continued to receive his $200,000 annual salary.

The misconduct allegations investigated by the commission involve a relationship Jones had with former Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson when she appeared before him in 2011.

Jones last week asked the Nevada Supreme Court to stay the panel’s Dec. 2 hearing in Las Vegas as part of his appeal of an August decision by District Judge Kathleen Delaney dismissing his lawsuit to halt the proceedings. The hearing was delayed in July after Jones filed the lawsuit.

But Delaney ruled from the bench in August that she lacked authority to stop the commission from moving forward. The commission then rescheduled the disciplinary hearing.

Jones and Jimmerson contend the commission has been violating his due process rights, and they want the Supreme Court to order Delaney to once more consider his claims against the commission.

Attorneys for the commission view Jones’ latest Supreme Court effort as another attempt to delay inevitable disciplinary action against him.

“The commission has an obligation to move the case forward so as to not impact the reputation of the judiciary and public confidence in the judiciary and the commission,” Special Counsel Kathleen Paustian wrote.

Jones, first elected to Family Court in 1992, was charged in the federal indictment with using the power of his office to carry out the investment fraud scheme, which authorities alleged began in 2002. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

Jones, his former brother-in-law, Thomas A. Cecrle Jr., and four others face criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. They are to stand trial March 3.

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.