Halverson may have helped electorate improve caliber of the judiciary

A hearty "thank you" must go out to the single individual who has done the most to improve the Nevada judiciary: Elizabeth Halverson.

It’s true. The arguably worst judge in Nevada, who has brought national embarrassment to the state, has been a positive influence on the selection of Nevada judges by making newspapers and voters pay closer attention to down-ballot judicial races.

The allegations against Halverson have been in the public eye since May 2007. She’s accused of speaking to jurors when she shouldn’t, not knowing the law, creating a hostile work environment and napping on the bench, among other things.

In August, her hearing before the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission was televised locally and nationally, and if you watched it, you already know she reflected poorly on Nevada.

Then in September, her husband beat her with a frying pan. (Ed Halverson didn’t admit to doing it, but admitted Friday the state could prove he did it. The Halversons seem to live in a perpetual state of denial.)

Voters rejected her re-election bid in the August primary, but unless the Judicial Discipline Commission acts to ban her permanently, there’s nothing to stop her from running in years to come.

There’s an up side to this judicial joke. I wrote earlier that if both the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun endorsed the same judicial candidates in nonpartisan judicial races, despite their philosophical differences, it’s a sign that the candidate probably was the best choice. I was not part of the endorsement process.

When endorsements came out, I was surprised to see than in the 10 District Court races and 10 Family Court races and three Justice of the Peace Races, there were only two races where the editorial boards of the two newspapers disagreed.

To replace Halverson in Department 23, the R-J endorsed Las Vegas attorney Jason Landess, despite his admitting a past gambling problem, while the Sun went with Family Court Judge Stefany Miley, who has received poor ratings in the R-J’s "Judging the Judges" surveys.

In the Department P Family Court race, the R-J went with Sandra Pomrenze, who now sits in Department D, but is running in Department P for a six-year term as an election strategy. The Sun went with Jack Howard, saying Pomrenze is a good judge and should stay in her seat. If she wins, Gov. Jim Gibbons picks her replacement.

(My column critical of Pomrenze’s election strategy said that during her years in office "Pomrenze built a reputation as a solid judge." Pomrenze has used it on her materials extensively. It is a fair use of the quote, but please don’t interpret that as any endorsement from me.)

In past weeks, a handful of knowledgeable sources in the legal world have confirmed that the candidates who earned the endorsements of both newspapers are, with a few exceptions, really the best choices voters have.

In District Court, both newspapers endorsed Elissa Cadish in Department 6, Linda Marie Bell in Department 7, Doug Smith in Department 8, Bill Kephart in Department 10, Michelle Leavitt in Department 12, Donald Mosley in Department 14, Michael Villani in Department 17, Susan Johnson in Department 22 and Kathleen Delaney in Department 25 (the only department where both newspapers also said her opponent Susan Scann would also be a good choice.)

The anomaly in that list is that after publishing reams about Mosley’s ethics violations, the R-J would endorse him.

In Family Court, both newspapers endorsed Cynthia "Dianne" Steel in Department 6, Greta Muirhead in Department I, Kenneth Pollock in Department J, Vincent Ochoa in Department K, Jennifer Elliott in Department L, Mathew Harter in Department N, Frank Sullivan in Department O, Bryce Duckworth in Department Q and Chuck Hoskin in Department R.

In the Justice of the Peace races, the newspapers endorsed David Gibson Sr. in Henderson Department 3, Diana Sullivan in Las Vegas Department 12 and Chris Lee in North Las Vegas Department 3.

Thanks must also be extended to Family Court Judge Nicholas Del Vecchio, whose sexual misbehavior on the taxpayers’ dime and his racist and sexist comments culminated in his voluntary and permanent removal from the bench Tuesday.

Once again, kudos to Elizabeth Halverson for improving the quality of the judiciary in Clark County. (Hope I don’t see that in a future mailer.)

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.

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