LV municipal judge candidates tout experience

Not even the candidates for Las Vegas Municipal Court judge are calling each others’ competency into question.

Martin Hastings, a private attorney, and Lynn Avants, a deputy public defender, are facing off in the race to be the next Municipal Court Department 6 judge.

“These are two experienced lawyers. No matter who wins, the Municipal Court will be advanced,” said City Councilman Steve Wolfson, an attorney.

That must come as a relief to voters wondering, of late, about the caliber of judicial candidates.

Early voting ends Friday. Election Day is June 5, and for most Las Vegas voters, the Municipal Court race is the only one on the ballot.

Avants, 37, finished first in April’s crowded primary election with 22 percent of the vote. Hastings, 43, came in second with 20 percent.

Both candidates say their experience is what makes them most qualified for the job.

Hastings has worked as a defense attorney and a prosecutor.

He says that his family history enables him to empathize with crime victims. Hastings’ father was killed by a drunken driver. His mother was kidnapped from her house recently. His house was broken into, and his wife was attacked.

Avants points to his experience dealing with “thousands” of cases similar to those a Municipal Court judge sees on an almost daily basis.

Avants handles cases in Justice Court.

Municipal Court handles only misdemeanors. But it is where those arrested for offenses such as domestic violence and drunken driving, who might go on to felonious crimes, enter the system.

Both candidates have run tough-on-crime campaigns.

Hastings said he would emphasize efficiency, courteousness to all parties involved in cases, and fairness.

“Most importantly, no matter how you rule, you want people to walk away and feel like they had a fair hearing,” he said.

Avants agreed.

“All that people are seeking is a fair judge,” he said.

Avants said he is running to continue serving the community.

“My entire life has been devoted to serving the public,” he said.

His father was longtime Las Vegas police homicide investigator Beecher Avants.

Both candidates have high-level endorsements.

The Clark County Prosecutors Association and the Las Vegas Police Managers and Supervisors Association are among the groups endorsing Avants.

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association and the Las Vegas Peace Officers Association have endorsed Hastings.

Whoever wins will serve the two remaining years on former Municipal Court Judge Abbey Silver’s seat. Silver won election to the District Court last year.

Hastings said if he wins, he will serve the two years of this term and run for re-election for a full four-year term. After that, he said he would weigh his options about running for a higher judgeship.

Avants said he has no plans to eventually run for higher office, though he wouldn’t rule it out.

“I don’t view this as a stepping stone,” he said.

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