Lawyer challenging judge who sanctioned him in constable case

It’s safe to say that bad blood has developed between District Judge Ronald Israel and lawyer Robert Pool.

Israel ordered Pool to pay $11,000 in sanctions and legal fees last year for improper filings in a lawsuit on behalf of Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura. The lawsuit was aimed at stopping surrounding constable offices from moving into Bonaventura’s area.

At the time, Pool publicly voiced his opposition to the sanctions and his displeasure with Israel; now he is one of two candidates running to unseat Israel in the Department 28 District Court race.

The other candidate is Susan Bush, who specializes in family law, criminal defense and personal injury cases.

Pool, a traffic ticket attorney when he is not representing Bonaventura, has been tied to the constable in his fiscal battle with Clark County. Bonaventura made Pool a deputy constable with law enforcement powers so he could pay him for legal services the county didn’t want to pay.

Pool also was sanctioned last year for professional miscues in a federal case involving Bonaventura. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach ordered Pool to pay a couple of thousand dollars in expenses and legal fees for those missteps, including $400 to lawyers for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who fought to make public an improperly sealed motion Pool filed in the case.

Pool, a University of San Diego Law School graduate, did not return messages for comment. He has been a member of the Nevada State Bar since 1992.

Israel acknowledged angering Pool when he sanctioned him last year, but he would not discuss the matter in depth.

Israel, also a San Diego Law School graduate, was a civil litigator in Las Vegas before he was elected to the newly created Department 28 seat in 2010. He moved here in 1982 to do insurance defense work in litigation stemming from the deadly MGM Grand fire.

In 1990, Israel started his own law practice specializing in personal injury cases. He ultimately became a part-time judge for Clark County and a court-appointed arbitrator.

Israel, who primarily has been assigned to civil cases during his tenure, did not have a high a retention rate (61 percent) in the 2013 Judicial Performance Evaluation sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But he says his decades of experience in law make him the best candidate.

“I’ve learned a lot behind the scenes of how the court system works,” he says.

Israel wants to improve gridlock in civil cases and believes several judges should dedicate full-time efforts on a rotating basis to settle those kinds of cases. That would save the taxpayers and the litigants money, he said.

Israel also would like to see more money made available for people who can’t afford lawyers in civil cases.

“There are so many people who have legitimate claims or are being sued wrongly, and they just can’t afford attorneys,” he says.

Bush, who received her law degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has been a member of the Nevada bar since 2002. She founded her own law firm, Bush &Levy, in 2006.

Bush says it’s not easy challenging a sitting judge, but Israel’s ratings in the last two Review-Journal judicial surveys played a role in her decision.

“I will put my passion for justice to work, making sure that every time parties appear before me they are getting the highest quality administration of justice available,” she said.

Bush promises to be a “fully prepared and impartial judge.”

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

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