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District attorney: Clark County judicial contender should explain why his candidacy is valid

Judicial candidate Ross Smillie should go before a judge and explain why he should be able to run for office, according to a petition filed by Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Wolfson filed what is known as a “petition for order to show cause” on Thursday in District Court.

He filed the document in response to a candidacy challenge against Smillie filed Friday by District Judge Michael Villani with the Clark County registrar of voters.

Smillie, a Las Vegas lawyer, is seeking the Department 17 seat held by Villani since 2007, but the incumbent claims his challenger is not an attorney who has been “licensed and admitted to practice law” for a minimum of 10 years, as required by Nevada law.

Attempts to reach Smillie for comment on the matter have not been successful.

“I’m really surprised that he didn’t withdraw on Wednesday,” said Villani’s campaign manager, Tom Letizia.

Wednesday was the last day judicial candidates could withdraw.

According to Villani’s challenge of his opponent’s qualifications, Smillie was admitted to practice law in Nevada in October 1987 but went on “inactive status” the same day and remained inactive until February 2009, when he became an active member of the State Bar of Nevada.

“The State Bar has likewise confirmed that it has no records of Mr. Smillie being admitted to practice in any other state or the District of Columbia,” according to the challenge, which argues that inactive members of the bar are not permitted to practice law.

Wolfson’s petition was assigned to District Judge Joanna Kishner, Villani’s colleague, but court records show that Kishner recused herself late Thursday “to avoid any appearance of impropriety or implied bias.”

According to court minutes, Kishner found that a determination of Smillie’s eligibility “could directly or indirectly impact not only this Court as one of the departments in the Eighth Judicial District but the other departments of the Eighth Judicial District as well.”

She asked that the case be reassigned.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.

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