The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline has a chance to finish what it started — and rid the bench of suspended Family Court Judge Steven Jones, once and for all.
Last month, the commission suspended Jones without pay for three months for having and failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a prosecutor who appeared before him. Jones also tried to retaliate against the district attorney’s office once he learned that other prosecutors had discovered and reported the relationship. Although Jones had displayed staggering contempt for judicial ethics, the commission decided against removing him from office and banning him from ever serving on the bench again, in part, because of his lack of previous disciplinary issues.
Never mind that while the commission was hearing and considering this complaint, Jones was on paid suspension because of pending federal fraud charges, and a separate commission complaint against Jones had been stalled by the judge through a court challenge.
On Thursday, however, the Nevada Supreme Court gave the commission a green light to proceed with its other case against Jones. We hesitate to call it a “new” case because it was launched eight years ago, and Jones wasn’t formally notified of its existence until 2012. As reported Friday by the Review-Journal’s Jeff German, Jones sought to block the complaint because he alleged the commission had violated the statue of limitations and his due process rights by waiting so long to inform him of the investigation. But the high court said intervention wasn’t warranted at this time, and that the commission could move forward.
The fact that the Commission on Judicial Discipline is willing to proceed with so many claims against Jones is damning in its own right. Among the allegations are details consistent with the criminal charges he faces: that he participated in an investment scheme with his former brother-in-law, felon Thomas Cecrle. The complaint also alleges that Jones pressured a former bailiff into loaning $18,000 to another felon, Victor Hancock; that Jones had an intimate relationship with a law student who worked for him, then allowed her to practice law in front of him years later without disclosing the relationship; and that Jones took home marijuana submitted as evidence in a case and allowed his then-girlfriend to smoke it.
Scheduling a hearing forthwith should be an easy call for the commission. It has already put in the resources to determine the merit of the complaint. But considering the wrist-slap the commission delivered last month, the unresolved complaint’s similarities with Jones’ pending criminal case, and Jones’ decision to abandon his re-election campaign to convince the commission he’s remorseful, it’s possible the panel might allow Jones to complete his term under suspension and simply let federal prosecutors prove their case instead.
But Jones isn’t remorseful. He proved as much when he appealed last month’s light discipline to the Nevada Supreme Court. He’s a manipulator who isn’t worthy of the robe. The commission mustn’t allow him to collect an additional $130,000 in salary while awaiting federal trial. A case has been compiled against Jones — one that, if proved, justifies his removal from office. Let’s see it. Right now.