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Attorneys face off in two races for seats in Henderson Justice Court

Updated May 23, 2024 - 5:53 pm

Two judicial seats in Henderson Justice Court will be up for vote in the upcoming primary election.

In the Department 1 race, six attorneys are competing for a seat after former Chief Justice of the Peace Sam Bateman stepped down and was appointed as Clark County’s deputy county manager in October.

Sandy DiGiacomo

After running for Henderson Justice Court in 2008 and Henderson Municipal Court in 2013, Henderson City Attorney Sandy DiGiacomo, 54, is once again putting her hat in the race for justice court.

“I think I’m a little older and wiser than I was when I ran previously, so I just think it’s a good time, and it’s a good way of giving back to the community,” she said.

DiGiacomo was born and raised in Las Vegas and graduated from Loyola Law School in 1995. She spent more than 22 years working at the Clark County district attorney’s office. DiGiacomo said she’s prosecuted cases in every justice court in Clark County in the past two decades, and her experience in courtrooms sets her apart from her opponents.

“I don’t think any of my opponents are going to be able to tell you they’ve done over 85 jury trials, or hundreds of preliminary hearings,” she said.

Harvey Gruber

Attorney Harvey Gruber, 59, is running for Department 1 after practicing in the Las Vegas Valley for 27 years. He has previously ran for Henderson Justice Court in 2008, in a race that also included DiGiacomo, and in 2016.

Gruber graduated from the now closed Whittier Law School in 1996, and moved to Southern Nevada after graduation. He practiced criminal defense for the majority of his career until his firm, Mayfield and Gruber, closed in April. He now practices civil and criminal defense.

“I have practiced in the Henderson Justice Court almost every day, I’ve handled every case that the justice court judge would see,” he said.

He said that he would like to see the court run more efficiently. He intends to approach cases by applying “the law to the facts and the facts to the law.”

“You wouldn’t want to be an activist, and least not in justice court,” he said.

Todd Prall

Attorney Todd Prall, 47, has lived in Henderson for 20 years, where he has most recently focused on civil and commercial litigation. Prall grew up in Utah and graduated from Brigham Young University’s law school in 2004.

“I would tend to say my judicial philosophy is generally more conservative,” Prall said. “I believe that a judge’s role is, for the most part, to know the law, apply the law to the facts and follow the law.”

He said his understanding of civil law differentiates himself from other candidates, since civil cases make up a large portion of justice court hearings.

As a judge, Prall said he would like to make it easier for the average person to access information about the criminal justice system.

“There are things that we can do to continue to build trust in the community that the court system is working properly,” he said.

Marla Renteria

Chief Deputy Public Defender Marla Renteria, 45, has worked for the agency since 2013 and is the current team chief of the domestic violence unit. Renteria grew up in Sun Valley, north of Reno, and moved to Henderson as a single mother to pursue her law degree at Boyd Law School, where she graduated in 2011.

Renteria said that if elected, she would ensure her courtroom “respects the values of every day, hardworking individuals.”

“We need to have judges who are in touch with the community, who knows what the average person goes through” she said.

Renteria advocated for greater access to the court system’s resources, through more self-help style resources to assist people who represent themselves in proceedings where they do not qualify for a lawyer.

She also said that her experience as a Latina woman would help her on the bench, where she said “qualified diversity” is important.

“I think the bench as a whole, everywhere, needs to look like the community we represent,” she said.

Louis Schneider

Schneider, 64, was a businessman and co-owner of a commercial leasing company before he decided to become a lawyer, graduating from Boyd Law School in 2005. After law school he briefly worked with the Clark County district attorney’s office’s juvenile division. He now has a law practice focusing on Family Court and criminal defense.

He said that he wants to be a judge because he feels that he can help more people from the bench than as a single practitioner. Schneider said he’s in favor of giving people second chances when appropriate.

“As a judge you have to employ the law and follow the law first and foremost,” he said. “But there’s a thousand shades of grey there, and if somebody needs help, I would like to see them get help if I don’t have to take their freedom away.”

He said his background running a business and becoming a lawyer in his 40s makes him an experienced candidate for judge.

“I think my diverse background makes me better suited for the job, and I genuinely like to help people,” he said.

Schneider said he believes Nevada shouldn’t have elected judges, and he preferred not to ask for donations when running for the bench. Campaign finance reports posted in April show he has reported zero contributions.

“I don’t ask people for money, I haven’t asked anybody for money,” he said. “I’m paying my own way.”

Gary Thompson

Criminal defense and personal injury attorney Gary Thompson, 58, has worked as an appointed alternate judge since 2016 in Henderson Municipal Court. He also served as an alternate judge in Las Vegas Municipal Court, from 2011 to 2012.

He ran unsuccessfully for Henderson Municipal Court in 2013.

Thompson grew up in Henderson and graduated from the University of San Diego’s law school in 1995. He said he wants to focus his career on helping the city of Henderson, rather than aiming for serving in District Court.

“I feel like you can make a bigger difference at that initial court,” he said.

Thompson said he would like to see a diversionary program in Henderson Justice Court for defendants in need of mental health care.

“The frustration I hit almost every time I’ve sat on the bench as a substitute is our lack of mental health programs or services,” he said.

Department 3

In the Henderson Justice Court Department 3, Justice of the Peace Barbara Schifalacqua, who was appointed in November, will appear on the ballot against two other attorneys — Gregory Denue and Deputy Public Defender Patricia Doyle.

Doyle did not respond to an interview request. When reached for comment, a relative for Denue said he has suspended his campaign.

Schifalacqua, 45, was born in Wisconsin and moved to Southern Nevada after graduating from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2006. She was a prosecutor with the Clark County district attorney’s office for more than 15 years.

Before she was made a Henderson Justice of the Peace, she was appointed in January 2023 to serve as a District Court hearing master overseeing temporary protective order hearings.

When she was appointed to the Henderson Justice Court, Schifalacqua said her experience as a hearing master allowed her to “hit the ground running.”

As a judge, Schifalacqua said she tries to ensure that people feel heard when they appear in front of her, and that she makes clear rulings.

“I absolutely believe in looking specifically at what’s presented and applying it to the law as it is before me,” she said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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