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Henderson judge faces one challenger

Other campaigns might get more attention, but the race for municipal judge in Henderson’s Department 3 has one bit of drama going for it: It’s the city’s only contest guaranteed to be settled during the April 5 primary.

Diana Hampton seeks her second six-year term on the bench. Clark County Deputy Public Defender William M. Waters is looking to unseat her.

Early voting begins Saturday.

Hampton was the first person elected to the newly created Department 3 seat in 2005. The court handles traffic and other misdemeanor criminal cases in the city. She said she wants to keep serving because she loves the work and wants to see the initiatives she has started continue.

"I really enjoy what I do. Every day I get up I look forward to going in and doing my job," Hampton said.

In 2007, she brought in a new interactive training program for teen drivers facing traffic citations. Last year, she adopted a scared-straight program from North Las Vegas called Life of Crime.

Budget cuts have since forced North Las Vegas to drop the two-hour program aimed at juvenile offenders, leaving Henderson as the only valley jurisdiction to offer it.

Hampton worries about what will become of those programs if she isn’t re-elected.

The 45-year-old earned her degree from California Western School of Law and has been a Nevada lawyer since 2000. She worked as a deputy city attorney in Henderson before she was elected to the bench.

Waters is a graduate of the Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and has been licensed as an attorney in Nevada for six years.

He was hired as a deputy public defender in November 2005 after several months as a law clerk for Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael Douglas. He estimates he has been involved in "thousands of cases" since then.

"As far as criminal goes, I think I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do," the 37-year-old said.

Waters said he wants to be a judge because he believes he can bring fairness to the bench. He entered the race in Department 3 less than a hour before the close of the filing period because he said he didn’t want to see Hampton go unopposed.

"If the voters want to elect judges, they should have a choice," he said.

Waters said he has only appeared in front of Hampton once, but he has not heard good things from private attorneys who regularly spend time in her court.

He said she has a reputation for inefficiency and for siding with law enforcement too much of the time.

Hampton received low marks last year from attorneys surveyed for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s regular "Judging the Judges" series.

Almost two-thirds of the 56 lawyers who responded said she should not be re-elected, the second lowest score among municipal judges in Clark County.

Hampton acknowledged that she "failed horribly" on the survey, but she questions the methodology used and the results that came back for her and other judges.

For one thing, she said, the vast majority of attorneys surveyed come from the defense side.

"So I’ve got 60 defense attorneys who don’t like me. Big deal," Hampton said. "I’m not going to apologize for my job. I’m not going to apologize for sending someone to jail when they deserve it."

Municipal judges in Henderson receive an annual salary of $137,867 plus benefits. The post is nonpartisan.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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