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Lower-court appointment could net Henderson judge $75K more a year

A Henderson justice of the peace will take a $40,000 pay cut to fill the city’s vacant municipal judge seat, but his net income after the shift could be $75,000 higher.

The reason: Justice of the Peace Rodney T. Burr would be eligible to collect on his 25 years worth of retirement benefits while also earning a paycheck from the city of Henderson. Burr’s current salary is $184,000. His annual retirement payout would be about $115,000 per year, even as he collects $144,000 as a municipal court judge.

The City Council voted unanimously to appoint Burr to the position Tuesday night after a brief discussion. Burr potentially receiving two public paychecks was not brought up.

Burr told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the vote he has the option to collect retirement while working as a municipal judge, but that he hasn’t made his mind up on the matter. He said he plans to officially leave his current position for the municipal seat in mid-May.

Burr emailed Mayor Andy Hafen on April 7 expressing his interest in the municipal seat left vacant after Judge Diana Hampton was found dead in her home last month. Henderson police and the Clark County coroner have both said no foul play was suspected in her death. The coroner had not determined Hampton’s cause or manner of death as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I know and love this city, and have a strong desire to serve my community for many years to come. I believe with the experience I have, I can bring a new, fresh perspective to the bench and be a great benefit to the Henderson Municipal Court,” the email from Burr said. “I have great respect for the good work done by the late Judge Hampton. I believe I would be able to step in and help advance the good work that is already being accomplished in the City of Henderson Municipal Court by her colleagues.”

The mayor nominated Burr for the position shortly after receiving the email, Hafen said during the City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The five-person City Council spent just over 12 minutes discussing the appointment, lauding Burr’s background as a criminal judge and his high ratings in Review-Journal Judging the Judges polls.

Burr was regularly one of the highest-rated judges in the Review-Journal polls, earning as high as a 97 percent approval rating among lawyers in 2012.

Councilman Sam Bateman said the city lucked out that the “best judge in Clark County” wanted to fill the position.

Burr has held his judicial seat hearing felony cases in Henderson for 25 years. The municipal courts handle lesser crimes such as misdemeanor batteries and drunken driving.

He will serve the remainder of Hampton’s six-year term that expires in June 2017. After the year, he’d be up for election for the seat.

Burr’s term as justice of the peace would have expired in 2018.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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