After almost 18 years on the bench in North Las Vegas Justice Court, Judge Stephen Dahl is set to retire today .
Dahl is giving up his gavel for a position with the Legal Aid of Southern Nevada. He will work for the Children’s Attorney Project, which provides legal representation to abused and neglected children who are in the foster care system or who are otherwise wards of the state.
“I want to help as many children as I can,” Dahl said.
Dahl, 57, has been the lead critic over the city’s plan to cut budget costs by merging its jail with Las Vegas, citing issues that have some inmates staying longer at the jail than they should and others being released too early.
“Unfortunately, the situation with the North Las Vegas jail will stick out in my mind,” Dahl said. “It’s one of the last things I’ll deal with before I leave.”
In his new position, Dahl said, his primary focus will be his new job and “protecting the rights of children.” But he will stay involved in the jail merger situation as a private citizen.
In one of his most recent appearances at a City Council meeting, Dahl suggested the elected officials spend a night in jail as part of comments criticizing how North Las Vegas inmates are treated at the Las Vegas facility. The comment was not well-received by council members.
“I’m also known for my big mouth,” Dahl said, with a chuckle.
Judge Chris Lee has served with Dahl since 2009 and said he will miss “the nice jazz music that comes from his chambers every once in a while.”
“It was nice having him around the courthouse,” Lee said. “He’s someone to bounce things off from. There are certain things you can’t anticipate before you get on the bench. It’s nice to have him around as a point of reference.”
Lee said he also will miss Dahl’s “wandering through the back hallways at all odd hours.”
“He’s known to work early and late from time to time,” Lee said.
Dahl graduated with a law degree from Brigham Young University in 1983. He and his wife, Margaret, will be celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary in December. The couple have six adult children and seven grandchildren.
Dahl’s seat is up for grabs in the Nov. 6 general election. Two candidates, Kalani Hoo and Jonathan MacArthur, are running for the office. The winner of the nonpartisan race will serve a six-year term.
“I got to deal with a lot of good people for a long time,” Dahl said. “I’ll look back on that with good memories.”