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Ruling: Only Las Vegas constables can work in Las Vegas

Clark County constables cannot serve legal papers outside of the jurisdictions where they were elected, according to a District Court ruling.

The four-page opinion issued last week addresses a long-running argument among border-jumping constables who leave the boundaries of their own townships to turn a profit elsewhere.

The court ruling aligns with an earlier Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion that said the Legislature doesn’t authorize the practice. Some constables brushed off the legislative ruling because it didn’t carry the weight of a judicial ruling. The issue could get the Legislature’s attention.

Las Vegas Township Constable John Bonaventura has objected to efforts by other constables seeking to boost their revenues by sending deputies to work in Las Vegas. He asked the court specifically to stop Laughlin Township Constable Jordan Ross and Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell from working in Las Vegas.

"I couldn’t believe that they did not respect the legislative opinion since it was very clear," Bonaventura said in a statement. "So I had to seek a legal court injunction to enforce the law."

Bonaventura said the matter was an issue of public safety as people were mistaking Henderson and Laughlin deputies as being with his office.

District Judge Ronald Israel agreed with Bonaventura in his ruling that "officials acting under the color of authority are conducting business outside their jurisdiction which clearly could lead to a citizen’s confusion as to who actually is a police officer properly conducting business in their community and lead to grave consequences."

The practice of border-jumping made headlines statewide last year when a handful of armed deputies from the Laughlin Township constable’s office executed a court order and seized money from a Las Vegas Township gas station. The Laughlin office also appeared to set up a Las Vegas bureau at that time.

Ross said he and others plan to appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

"I know I’ve rocked the boat," Ross said. "I’ve worked outside of the box, and people don’t like change. But I brought a better quality of service to Las Vegas Township, and I’m not sorry about that."

Ross added that his office was working about 150 service orders a week.

According to Nevada law, constables are peace officers, and their duties include serving subpoenas, handling evictions and summoning juries for justices of the peace.

"In looking at this statute, the plain meaning could not be more clear," Israel wrote. "Constables are only peace officers in their township."

There are 11 constable officers countywide ranging in size from Las Vegas Township, which has a $3 million budget, to smaller jurisdictions in places such as Moapa and Searchlight, with tiny budgets and no employees. In larger offices, the county pays for administrative support. In Las Vegas Township, the county sets a maximum pay rate for the constable of about $100,000. In other jurisdictions, they are paid based on how much business they carry out.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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