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Halverson told to have mental exam if she intends to blame health problems for behavior

Embattled District Judge Elizabeth Halverson will be required to undergo a mental health evaluation if she wants to bring up personal medical conditions during an August hearing before the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission.

Claiming it doesn’t want a "trial by ambush," the commission on Wednesday ordered Halverson to submit to an examination by a Reno-based psychiatrist by July 18 if she intends to argue that her mental or physical conditions contributed to her behavior on the bench, according to the commission order.

If Halverson doesn’t comply and brings up a disability during the hearing, the commission can disallow the information and Halverson could be considered in contempt, the order states.

The order doesn’t specify what Halverson’s disability is. In a 2007 meeting with editors and reporters at the Review-Journal, Halverson enumerated several personal health issues. She has difficulty walking and uses a steady supply of oxygen. She’s overweight, has been a diabetic for more than 10 years and has experienced severe hypoglycemic attacks.

Halverson said she also suffers from Crohn’s disease and the after-effects of cancer. She said she’s also been troubled by congestive heart failure and survived a bacterial infection that eroded the bones in her feet. A knee injury restricts her ability to walk, and a shoulder injury limits her arm motions.

Halverson has contended that she doesn’t have to provide information on medical issues because the federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from asking about disabilities, the order says.

The Judicial Discipline Commission pointed out that it isn’t her employer.

Halverson is accused of mistreating court staff, sleeping through trials and improperly communicating with jurors. She has been on paid suspension since last summer.

The commission is scheduled to begin a hearing on the complaint against Halverson Aug. 4.

Halverson, who is seeking re-election this year, also is arguing that she should be allowed to skip the upcoming election and run again in 2012.

She was elected to a two-year term in 2006 but argued before the Nevada Supreme Court in June that it’s unconstitutional to limit her term because judges typically serve six years.

The Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided if Halverson can skip the election.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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