Steven Jones has quite a sense of irony. During testimony last week before the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, the suspended Family Court judge said he was “exceedingly offended” by the conduct of a deputy district attorney who suspected Jones had an inappropriate relationship with a fellow prosecutor. That attorney used a cellphone to snap a photo of him from under a restaurant table at a party in 2011.
The photo clearly showed Jones’ hand in curious proximity to the knee of the prosecutor, Lisa Willardson. That the two were obviously interested in one another was a big deal: Ms. Willardson routinely appeared before Jones on child welfare matters. If their relationship were anything but professional, they had a legal and ethical obligation to disclose as much, and to take steps to keep Ms. Willardson out of his courtroom.
But they did nothing close to approaching the right thing. That an elected official and public servant would engage in such reckless behavior was exceedingly offensive. It cost Ms. Willardson her job, and it led to last week’s hearing, which could result in Jones’ removal from the bench. The commission presented a compelling case. Yet Jones ripped the district attorney’s office for condoning “inappropriate behavior.”
More irony. Jones is suspended from the bench not over his relationship with Ms. Willardson, which continues to this day, but over his role in what federal prosecutors describe as a $3 million investment fraud scheme. According to the indictment, Jones used the stature of his office to help close deals. If proved true, that’s beyond inappropriate behavior.
Taxpayers are the ones who should be exceedingly offended, because Jones has been on paid leave for more than a year, collecting his full $200,000 annual salary, while awaiting trial on the criminal charges. That trial is scheduled to begin March 3, but given the slow pace of the federal justice system, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the proceedings delayed long enough to give Jones a two-year paid vacation.
If Jones wants to know what exceedingly offensive inappropriate behavior looks like, he should stand in front of a mirror.