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Las Vegas judge on probation for avoiding on-call shifts

Updated March 11, 2019 - 5:20 pm

A Las Vegas Municipal Court judge was publicly reprimanded by a state panel after refusing to work on call to grant search warrants for four years.

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline determined that Judge Martin Hastings violated judicial canons by using alternate judges to cover his shifts to grant telephonic search warrants, according to a 12-page order issued Wednesday.

In 2014, the court enacted a policy that kept one of the six municipal judges on call on rotating weeklong shifts to grant the warrants, which are usually requested by Las Vegas police seeking to do nonconsensual blood tests on drunken driving suspects.

All six judges, including Hastings, agreed to the policy when it was put in place.

Hastings declined to comment on Monday.

According to the order, Hastings had not worked an on-call shift in four years and was the only municipal judge to use an alternate to cover his shifts.

Over those four years, three chief judges confronted Hastings and ordered him to work the on-call shift. One letter from then-Chief Judge Cedric Kerns pleaded with Hastings to “please, just do it once,” the order states.

During Hastings’ hearings, three other municipal judges and Las Vegas Justice Court Chief Judge Suzan Baucum testified that working the on-call shifts was unpleasant.

All four judges said they often had trouble going back to sleep after being called to grant warrants and were tired and groggy at work the next day.

Judge Baucum equated the shift to the “rigors of having a newborn child.”

“The Commission found the testimony of the judges to exemplify the very important principle that a judge cannot shirk his or her assigned duties based simply upon a dislike for such duties,” the order states.

Hastings did not testify at the hearing, according to the order, but his wife said that he had sleep issues “whereby (Hastings) wakes up cranky and cannot get back to sleep.”

The commission questioned the “propriety of the City of Las Vegas using taxpayer funds for (Hastings’) repeated and excessive use of alternates in contravention of the law and the administrative directives of the LVMC.”

Hastings told the commission that he was willing to pay alternate judges out of his own pocket. He received more than $215,000 in pay and benefits last year, according to TransparentNevada.com.

The city passed an ordinance in 2015 that allowed judges to use temporary alternates for on-call duties, but only when the judges were busy with municipal court business or had medical or personal reasons to miss the shift.

The commission determined that Hastings’ use of alternates did not count as temporary because of the frequency with which he used them.

The commission ruled that he must take a National Judicial College leadership course at his own cost and will remain on probation for six months, during which time he must work the on-call shift and cooperate with his fellow judges. After that time, the commission will review a report from the chief judge and make a decision.

If Hastings doesn’t comply, the order said, he may be removed from the bench and barred from serving as a judge.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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