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Judge orders election for North Las Vegas Municipal Court position

Voters in North Las Vegas will get a say this year in who will preside over the city’s diversionary court, a Clark County District Court judge ruled Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada announced in a news release that Judge Gloria Sturman ruled against the city in a lawsuit the organization filed over the position last month.

“So this case is important because it affects the entire city of North Las Vegas and their ability to pick their elected officials, specifically the municipal court judge for Department 1,” ACLU of Nevada attorney Sophia Romero said.

North Las Vegas created the municipal court department last year as part of the city’s new approach to low-level crimes, focusing on rehabilitation over punishment. It helps connect people with services such as housing, addiction counseling, job training and veterans outreach programs.

“The City of North Las Vegas created a new court to address the root causes of crime, reduce recidivism, and achieve meaningful social justice reform, which was requested and needed by our community,” North Las Vegas spokesman Patrick Walker said in a statement. “The City will do whatever it needs to do to enable this transformative court to continue to provide programming and services to residents in need.”

Council members appointed Chris Lee to serve as judge in the new department. Lee previously served as a North Las Vegas justice of the peace, but lost reelection in 2020.

The lawsuit filed last month accused the city of appointing Lee to a term that extended beyond what was allowed by the city charter. Lee was appointed to a term that extended into 2026, despite the charter in Section 4.005(3) requiring vacant positions filled by appointment to go to voters in the first election following the appointment, according to the lawsuit.

Romero said Lee will be able to continue serving until the 2022 election is held. A city official said Lee could be a candidate for the job in this year’s elections as well. A primary is scheduled for June and the general election will be held in November. A written order for the decision has not yet been issued.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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