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Ex-Judge Steven Jones banned from the bench for life

Closing what it said was a lengthy and “sad chapter” in the history of the state’s judiciary, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline late Tuesday banned former Family Court Judge Steven Jones from the bench for life.

In its unanimous decision, the seven-member commission said the imprisoned Jones was “forever banned” from serving in any judicial office, either elected or appointed, in the future.

The seven-page decision strongly rebuked Jones for thwarting the panel’s decade-long efforts to discipline him over “many troubling allegations of misconduct.”

The commission said Jones and his “cadre of attorneys” delayed the disciplinary proceedings at every turn, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars..

“Consequently, the commission, one of the smallest agencies in the state of Nevada with one of the smallest operating budgets, was forced to divert an already bare-bones staff, engage outside counsel at considerable expense and exhaust limited resources and funds to legally respond to respondent’s ongoing diversionary tactics,” the panel wrote.

The only one to blame for this “spectacle of events and deceitful behavior” was Jones, the commission said.

At a hearing last month before the commission, the former judge’s latest lawyer, Scott MacDonald, described Jones as a “shell of man” and “fully and completely defeated.”

Jones’ admitted role in a nearly $3 million investment fraud scheme led to the lifetime ban.

In June commission prosecutors charged Jones with violating the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct. They alleged his admission violated “public confidence and trust in the integrity of the judiciary” and abused the “prestige” of his judicial office to advance his own financial interests.

Jones, 57, had pleaded guilty in federal court in September 2014 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the scheme and then gave up his law license and resigned from the bench. Five other defendants, including his former brother-in-law Thomas Cecrle, pleaded guilty in the scheme.

Jones is now serving a 26-month sentence at a federal correctional facility near Bakersfield, Calif. He is scheduled to be released in April 2017, and federal prosecutors are pressing to take away his state pension.

In February 2014 the judicial commission suspended Jones without pay for three months after it cited him for an improper romantic relationship with a prosecutor who appeared before him in Family Court. The prosecutor, Lisa Willardson, died of a drug overdose in December 2013. She was fired from the Clark County district attorney’s office after the relationship became public.

Jones faced a series of additional allegations of professional misconduct in a separate case commission prosecutors put together. But the commission never got a chance to hold a hearing on the allegations.

In that case prosecutors alleged Jones associated with felons, improperly handled drug evidence and once had an “intimate relationship” with a law student who worked for him.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.

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