Judge no stranger to high-profile cases, TV cameras

District Judge Jackie Glass is becoming a staple on the nightly news because of the O.J. Simpson trial, but she's no stranger to high-profile cases or the TV cameras.

Long before she became a district judge, Glass was a local television reporter and anchor. She gave up that life to pursue the law, becoming an attorney and ultimately the judge who would end up presiding over one of Las Vegas' biggest criminal cases.

Her résumé leading up to the Simpson trial contains a number of noteworthy cases.

She handled the case of Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan, the former professional bodybuilders accused of murdering their assistant, Melissa James, in 2005.

She was also the judge in the case of Ae Kwon, the minister accused of trying to extort $20 million from Celine Dion's husband, Rene Angelil.

John Momot, a longtime criminal defense attorney, said Glass' experience as a journalist helps her keep her cool in front of the local and national news cameras.

"She's perfect for this kind of case. She knows how to conduct herself in front of the camera," Momot said. "Most importantly, I think she gives great sound bites."

At times during the trial, she's scolded attorneys when they talked over her. Other times she's spoken to them softly, as if consoling a child.

But Glass hasn't held back when she's been angry.

"Sit down!" Glass shouted at Yale Galanter, Simpson's attorney, after he stood and objected at one point in the trial.

"The last thing you want me to do, as a judge, is to lose my temper in front of the fine ladies and gentlemen of the jury," she said to the attorneys, adding that the trial would be very unpleasant if they didn't shape up.

Greg Denue, a criminal defense attorney, said Glass is known for running a tight and efficient ship, not such an easy task when there are multiple attorneys shouting at the same time.

"She's got a lot of street-level common sense and sniffs out the BS," he said.

Glass, who declined to be interviewed, is originally from New York and earned a journalism degree in 1978 from the University of Georgia. That year, she moved to Las Vegas to take a job as a reporter for KORK-AM, 920. She earned a reputation as a dogged reporter and was eventually hired by KTNV-TV, Channel 13, where she covered crime and served as an anchor.

"She was the kind of reporter who was everywhere and was aggressive in asserting her beat," said Richard Urey, who worked as a reporter in Las Vegas at the same time as Glass. Urey, now chief of staff for Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said though reporters in Las Vegas could be cutthroat, Glass was welcoming and friendly.

Glass eventually left journalism and earned her law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1984. That same year, she married her husband, Steve Wolfson, an attorney who is now a Las Vegas city councilman.

The couple has been married ever since and has two daughters, one in high school and the other a junior in college.

"I can't imagine not being married to another lawyer or someone in the justice system," Wolfson said. "We share stories, we know the same people and we talk about cases together. It would be really hard to be married to a school teacher or a paramedic."

Wolfson said he and Glass have their hands full as parents but also enjoy exercising and traveling. He said Glass is an avid whale watcher who loves to take two- to four-hour excursions to watch humpback whales.

Glass spent 18 years in private practice, including 12 years with Wolfson, before she was elected to the bench in 2002.

Her reviews as a judge have been mixed.

In the Review-Journal's Judicial Performance Evaluation survey in 2004, 69 percent of 379 attorneys said that Glass should be retained. Some attorneys praised Glass for being professional and right on the issues. But others said she made questionable rulings and was somewhat unclear about the law. A few said she wasn't courteous and didn't start her court on time.

Glass at the time said that she would do better to start court on time and would work on being more courteous if there was a perception that she was rude.

In 2008, however, attorneys surveyed continued to question her demeanor on the bench. About 30 percent of attorneys ranked Glass, and several other female District Court judges, as "less than courteous."

"A bit too condescending for my taste," wrote one attorney. "Likes to wave the finger in disapproval."

Overall, however, many attorneys submitted positive comments, saying that Glass is thorough and well-prepared.

Jerrianne Hayslett, a court and media consultant who worked as the spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court during Simpson's criminal trial in Los Angeles, has been watching parts of the current case from the Las Vegas courtroom.

Hayslett, who wrote a book on Simpson's criminal trial -- he was acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman -- said she was initially struck by Glass' informal courtroom style. She was amazed, for example, that Glass called her marshal, Arthur Sewell, by his first name in front of jurors.

Unlike her counterpart in the Los Angeles trial, Lance Ito, Glass has so far avoided becoming fodder for late night comedians. But that doesn't mean she's not the focus of attention.

"I think anybody who has worked in the news business is a little impressed that a fellow news person has become someone that we, as news people, pursue," Urey said. "I remember when Jackie left TV news to go to law school. I thought 'That's pretty ambitious.' Look what you're throwing away to be a lawyer."

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.