Las Vegas constable Bonaventura loses high court ruling in turf dispute

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled in favor of two constables sued by Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura.

The unanimous order from a three-justice panel will allow deputies employed by the Henderson and Laughlin constables to continue working in Las Vegas Township.

Constables are elected in each township; as sworn law enforcement officers they perform tasks that include serving court paperwork and handling evictions.

Bonaventura sued Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross and Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell in Clark County District Court in June 2012. Initially, District Judge Ronald Israel granted a preliminary injunction to keep the two constables from doing work in Las Vegas.

The new ruling from the Supreme Court reverses that order, ending the legal dispute. However, it is not expected to change the day-to-day operations of the three constable offices.

Before the decision, the Supreme Court had issued a temporary stay, allowing the Henderson and Laughlin constables to work in Las Vegas while the case was under consideration.

Both of Bonaventura’s legal adversaries said the court’s order is vindication.

“It vindicates what I’ve been saying all along, that we have the authority to go throughout the county,” Mitchell said.

“We’re really glad to put this behind us,” Ross said.

At the same time, the two constables don’t directly compete with Bonaventura for all the services that constables provide. Both avoid doing evictions in Las Vegas and don’t tow vehicles.

Ross said: “We have basically carved out a niche, a small niche, in providing service to commercial law firms regarding the execution of court orders.”

Their attorney, Ross Goodman, said: “We’re happy that the Supreme Court considered oral arguments on this case and ruled that the board of county commissioners is the oversight entity for all Clark County constables.”

Clark County has 11 constables.

County commissioners in March voted to abolish Bonaventura’s office, a decision that, because of state law, takes effect when his term ends in January 2015.

Bonaventura, elected in 2010, has experienced several high-profile incidents, including a reality television pilot with foul-mouthed deputies, lawsuits from former staff members, and financial disputes with the county about how to pay his attorneys.

In a statement, Bonaventura made it clear that he intends to press on and petition the court for all seven justices to hear the case.

He said the three justices on the panel misunderstood the facts.

The petition will be filed in several days, Bonaventura said.

To persuade the full court to hear the case, attorneys need to show new information or provide facts that were overlooked.

It isn’t Bonaventura’s only case before the Supreme Court. He is asking the court to overturn the county commissioners’ decision to abolish his office. That case is pending.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.