Top court tells judge to leave

CARSON CITY -- Because of a gap in state election laws, the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Family Court Judge Robert Teuton to immediately vacate his position.

The high court, in a decision written by Justice Michael Cherry, said Teuton had to give up the Clark County seat because his appointment ran out Jan. 5. He was appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons to fill a vacancy on Aug. 22, 2008.

Cherry wrote that the state constitution requires appointed judges to stand for election at the "next general election," which was held on Nov. 4, 2008.

But Teuton was appointed to the seat three days after the deadline for making changes in the general election ballot.

"There was no way I could even have petitioned to get my name on the ballot," Teuton said. "The Legislature needs to do something to provide for situations like this."

In the order, the court stated the vacation of Teuton's appointment will not affect any of the decisions he has made since Jan. 5.

Teuton said the decision means that other judges and senior judges will be forced to handle cases on which he has been working. He was scheduled to hear a matter involving deceased entertainer Michael Jackson on Monday.

"It is a shame we have to go through this, not just for me, but for the public," he said. "This is going to have a detrimental effect on the court and the public."

But Teuton intends to file his candidacy in January to run for a full term in the seat.

"If I had known this would have been a five-month appointment, I would never have applied," said Teuton, who had been a deputy district attorney for 25 years.

Even the announcement on the Supreme Court Web site states that Teuton would serve through the end of 2010.

In approving Teuton's appointment, Gibbons stipulated in documents that the new judge could serve until January 2011. That would have ended the term of Judge Gerald Hardcastle, who retired on July 1, 2008.

Daniel Burns, Gibbons' communications director, said the governor relied on the advice of the attorney general that Teuton could serve until 2011.

Since the decision does not offer any guidance on what the governor can do next, Burns said the attorney general will be asked if the governor can bypass the normal process and just reappoint Teuton.

But normally when a judicial vacancy occurs, the Supreme Court convenes the Commission on Judicial Selection, which interviews candidates interested in an appointment and chooses the three top candidates. The governor interviews these three and picks the new judge.

Teuton expects that the Judicial Selection Commission will be convened and at least three months will pass before a new judge is selected.

He said he feels confident the commission will nominate him again and "hopefully" Gibbons will reappoint him.

Gibbons will move quickly to fill the vacancy because he realizes how busy Family Court is, Burns said.

"His goal is to get someone in the job as expeditiously as possible," Burns added.

Based on advice from the district attorney's office, Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax said he did not place a contest for the Family Court seat on the general election ballot last year.

Mary Miller, a deputy district attorney, said her office decided that Teuton's term did not end until January 2011 based on the dates in the appointment documents signed by Gibbons.

Like Teuton, Miller said the Legislature needs to come up with a law dealing with situations where judicial and other positions are filled by the governor after the filing deadlines for their seats have passed.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.