Let’s dub it the “Halverson effect.”
Two years ago in the November general election, 151,800 Clark County residents voted to make Elizabeth Halverson a judge. Were you one of them?
Do you now feel pangs of guilt that in the seven-way August 2006 primary, you didn’t know much about the candidates, so you voted for the only woman — Halverson? Nearly 40,000 people voted for her in that crowded primary field. Were you one of them?
Are you feeling the “Halverson effect,” a sense of guilt because you voted for her? Did your regrets result in putting a little more effort into researching the judicial races this year because you didn’t want to elect “another Halverson”?
If the “Halverson effect” has helped create some sense of voter responsibility among the 103,000 who voted in Clark County, then something positive has emerged from this judicial farce. Various legal beagles told me more people than usual asked them about judicial candidates this year. Instead of 10 calls, one said he got 50.
I’m hoping there’s another “Halverson effect” and the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission takes a hard look at why this has dragged out so long. Halverson took office January 2007. On April 25, 2007, a complaint against her was filed with the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission. In early May, she was banned from the Regional Justice Center. In July 2007, she was suspended with pay by the commission.
Formal charges alleging she violated the judicial canons of ethics weren’t filed until January 2008. Sleeping on the bench and creating a hostile work environment for her staff were among the 14 counts.
Now some of the delays resulted from Halverson’s own actions. But the commission, or perhaps the Legislature, needs to figure out ways to speed up this process and still protect someone’s rights. This embarrassment has lingered too long and cost too much.
Not only has she been paid her $130,000-a-year salary for 20 months, while only working four and a half months, but during that entire time you’ve paid for senior judges to fill in for her in Department 23 and that’s another large chunk of change.
Even though the voters hurled Halverson out of office Tuesday, the commission still hasn’t decided charges against her. The commission hearing resumes at 10 a.m. today.
Her behavior has been a disgrace, according to her staff, according to fellow judges and according to much of the testimony presented to the commission last week.
Halverson’s testimony is along the lines: Those things never happened. That bailiff wanted to massage her feet. (Sure he did. What man wouldn’t?) She may have slept once in court, but not as often as her staff alleged. (Several times, she appeared to be asleep during the commission hearing, before opening her eyes and smiling at the camera.)
Her attorney from Michigan, Michael Alan Schwartz — one of his notable former clients is convicted mercy-killer Dr. Jack Kevorkian — might be getting paid by the hour based on the pace of the hearing. Except, supposedly, her three former attorneys quit because they weren’t paid. Or at least that’s Halverson’s version. They said they wanted out because they had an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” involving “a disagreement over tactics and strategies.”
Maybe the tooth fairy provided Halverson with enough money to hire Schwartz. Or maybe he’s doing it for free and doesn’t have problems with her “tactics and strategies.”
Anyway, voters have turned their backs on Halverson. No matter what the commission decides, Halverson’s off the bench as of January because voters say so, although she did receive almost 10 percent of the vote, as I predicted. Family Court Judge Stefany Miley received 60 percent and attorney Jason Landess pulled in 30 percent of the vote, so they advance to the November election and Halverson is eliminated.
As for the 9,246 people who voted for Halverson Tuesday, perhaps they honestly believe she’s a qualified judge valiantly fighting the establishment.
More than 86,000 people voted her out by voting for Miley or Landess. But how many of them bear responsibility for putting Halverson on the bench?
Hopefully, the “Halverson effect” will last for a few election cycles before lazy voters revert to voting in races where they are as clueless as certain candidates.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.