The family of a Las Vegas Justice Court marshal who killed himself last month has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his death was the result of a hostile work environment created by supervisors and union leaders locked in a bitter labor organizing drive.
Louis “Ziggy” Reale, 44, who worked in the courtroom of Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan, hanged himself March 21 in the garage of his Las Vegas home. The coroner ruled his death a suicide.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed by attorney Sigal Chattah late Wednesday on behalf of Reale’s wife, Debra, and their two children, alleges Reale was the victim of threats and coercion during a two-year campaign to organize marshals in Justice Court, District Court and Family Court.
The campaign led to a “systematic abuse” of Reale’s civil rights, the lawsuit alleges.
The labor strife has put marshals assigned to judges at odds with administrative marshals who man the metal detectors and keep the peace at the 17-story Regional Justice Center, according to the lawsuit.
One of the goals of the organizing campaign was to incite a “mutiny” among the judicial marshals in both Justice Court and District Court to force the judges to cave in to the union’s demands, the lawsuit alleges.
The accusations in the lawsuit come in the middle of an FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force and other misconduct by marshals at Family Court. Since June, Justice Court marshals have been managed separately from the marshals who work in Family Court and District Court.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Reale’s supervisor, Timothy Shea, the Clark County Deputy Marshals Association, Justice Court and Clark County. Former Marshal Karl Beavers, who was the vice president of the union, also is named as a defendant.
The lawsuit alleges Beavers, who left the courthouse in January, was Reale’s former supervisor, but Beavers said he was never a supervisor. He declined further comment.
Shea could not be reached for comment.
Anthony Vogel, president of the 70-member Deputy Marshals Association, said the allegations in the lawsuit aren’t true.
“His death is unfortunate, and our heart goes out to the family,” he said. “The association is fighting for more protection and the rights of the marshals and hasn’t engaged in any strong-arm tactics.”
There are about 120 marshals working at the Regional Justice Center and at Family Court at 601 N. Pecos Road.
Reale’s family is seeking damages and a permanent injunction to eliminate the “unlawful employment practices” that led to his death.
The defendants “engaged in a pattern of abusive and harassing behaviors against the marshals creating a hostile work environment based on union allegiances at the Regional Justice Center,” the lawsuit alleges.
Since November, after Shea became a supervisor of Justice Court marshals, the lawsuit alleges, he has mounted a “campaign of terrorizing judicial deputy marshals with threats of losing their jobs, criminal prosecution and severe work sanctions if his policies and procedures were not followed.”
Shea’s actions caused a “slew of health issues” for Reale, including panic attacks, anxiety and depression, according to the lawsuit. Reale also began having suicidal thoughts.
Reale went on medical leave Feb. 28 and was supposed to return to work April 7, the suit says. But he committed suicide on March 21 because he did not want to go back to the “threats, verbal abuse and coercive tactics.”
The lawsuit said courthouse officials should have taken steps to stop Reale’s supervisors from violating his civil rights.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.