Judicial discipline board to determine whether Judge Steven Jones is fit to serve

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline meets today to consider whether suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones is fit to serve on the bench.

Jones, who has filed for re-election this month, faces a wide range of possible sanctions, including another suspension and removal from office, stemming from misconduct linked to his romantic relationship with the late former prosecutor, Lisa Willardson.

The commission last month found that special prosecutors proved “by clear and convincing evidence” eight of 12 charges filed against Jones in December 2012.

Jones, who is also under a federal fraud indictment, discovered Willardson’s body in the bathroom of her Henderson home on Dec. 26, the same day the commission’s decision was first made public.

There were no signs of foul play, and the coroner is waiting for toxicology results before ruling on the cause of her death.

The commission will conduct a hearing by video conference between Reno and Las Vegas. Most of the commissioners, along with Jones and his lead lawyer James J. Jimmerson, will be in Reno at the office of the State Bar of Nevada. Jones is listed as the only defense witness.

Special prosecutors plan to call three witness, all from the Clark County district attorney’s office, in an effort to show the damaging impact of the romantic relationship on the court system. They will testify at the State Bar’s Las Vegas office.

Former District Attorney David Roger, who prompted the commission’s investigation by filing a complaint against Jones, is one of the prosecution’s witnesses. The other two witnesses are former senior deputies under Roger, including Nancy Becker, a retired Nevada Supreme Court justice.

Prosecutors had accused Jones of violating rules of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct that require judges to comply with the law, avoid the appearance of impropriety and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

The commission last month ruled prosecutors proved three counts that were tied directly to the judge’s relationship with Willardson between October and December 2011.

Two of the counts alleged Jones improperly maintained the relationship with Willardson while she “actively litigated” child welfare cases before him and then did not disqualify himself from the cases. He issued a ruling in her favor in December, long after they had begun to date.

The other count accused Jones of interfering with Roger’s push to remove Willardson from a child welfare unit that prosecuted cases in the judge’s courtroom.

The commission also found that prosecutors presented strong evidence to sustain three counts accusing Jones of using his judicial office to help Willardson prepare a response to a State Bar complaint against her stemming from their romantic relationship.

Jones was suspended by the commission after his November 2012 federal indictment. He has been receiving his $200,000 annual salary since then.

The indictment alleges Jones used the power of his Family Court office to carry out a $3 million investment fraud scheme with five other defendants between 2002 and 2012. His trial is set for March, but expected to be continued.

The commission has been investigating similar financial fraud allegations against Jones, but that case, which dates to 2006, is tied up at the Nevada Supreme Court.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.