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Betsy Kolkoski becomes first woman to be chief judge

Lady Luck decided it was time to end the patriarchy at the Las Vegas Municipal Court.

After the six judges tied 3-3 in a vote for the new chief judge, after the first draw of the cards today ended in another tie (a two of hearts versus a two of clubs), the next draw made Judge Betsy Kolkoski the new chief judge. Her Queen of spades beat Judge Cedric Kerns’ six of clubs.

Kolkoski is the first woman to be chief judge in a system that used to rely on seniority. So the late Judge Seymore Brown held the job for what seemed like forever, then Judge Toy Gregory, then Kerns. Two years ago, after the seniority system got the boot and the chief judge was chosen by an election, Judge Bert Brown was elected.

He opted not to run for another term, but nominated Kerns to replace him, while Judge Martin Hastings nominated Kolkoski.

Brown, Kerns and the newest judge, Cynthia Leung, voted for Kerns, while Kolkoski, Hastings and Judge George Assad voted for Kolkoski.

After the second draw of the cards, the new chief as of July 1 said she wanted to work with all of the judges. Her style is one of consensus and she said she’d consult with all the judges.

The six judges have split into two camps with micromanager Kerns on one side, with more of a “my way or the highway” attitude. On the other sides are the judges who prefer to be left alone to run their own courtrooms as they choose.

A last minute effort to put forward Hastings instead of Kolkoski was blocked by Assad, who had recently butted heads with Brown over Assad’s refusal to use videotapes of hearings as the other municipal judges do.

So in a way, Kolkoski owes her new title and her place in history to both Lady Luck and George Assad.

The term is two years and hopefully some of the squabbling over the past 12 years detailed in two prior columns (here and here) will fade by then.

But under the category of be careful what you wish for, Chief Judge Brown, after two years, said he didn’t run for a second term because he was tired of being chief judge.

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