Open case unopposed

Family Court Judge Stefany Miley, who is running for District Court, on Wednesday didn’t oppose a judge’s order unsealing a malpractice lawsuit against her law firm. But Miley hasn’t explained why the firm wanted the case sealed from public view two years ago.

Miley last week declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying she couldn’t recall details because the case had been filed three years earlier. Jeff Olster, a Miley Law Firm associate who represented the firm Wednesday in court, said afterward that he isn’t “authorized” to discuss the lawsuit, and Miley in February declined to answer questions about the case while on the campaign trail.

District Judge Douglas Herndon, who presided over the malpractice case, said Wednesday in court that he mistakenly sealed the lawsuit in 2006 and didn’t realize the error until the Review-Journal inquired about it last week. As a result, he summoned attorneys from the case back into court to justify the sealing order.

“The court is never going to know about a case if you (litigants) never go to court,” Herndon said of the case, which was settled out of court a year after it was filed. “I have no recollection what I did two years ago in dismissing the case.”

Herndon said he wanted the case unsealed because he doesn’t believe in sealing cases from public view and in response to state Supreme Court rules enacted in January, which prescribe circumstances and procedures under which civil cases may be sealed. Herndon also said the sealing request might have been a routine matter for the attorneys at that time, but that cases no longer can be sealed so easily.

“You were doing business the same way everybody in the legal community was doing business at the time,” Herndon told the attorneys.

The case was settled more than two years ago, but limited records about that case, and dozens of other sealed lawsuits, are available for the first time on the Clark County District Court’s Web site.

Previously, virtually no information was available on sealed lawsuits. Review-Journal stories last year prompted the state Supreme Court in January to enact the new rules.

The order sealing the Miley lawsuit was still in place Wednesday afternoon after the hearing. However, earlier this month, court personnel, through an apparent misunderstanding, showed that file to the Review-Journal. It included the complaint against the law firm, its vague response to the complaint and a handful of other documents.

The complaint shows that Miley, a first-term Family Court judge who is in a contested campaign to replace District Judge Elizabeth Halverson, and her law firm were sued by Valerie Carr-Blum of Las Vegas just days after Miley took the bench in January 2005.

Carr-Blum couldn’t be reached for comment. Her attorney, Joseph Lopez, on Wednesday said he didn’t know where she is living.

The lawsuit alleged that Carr-Blum’s husband, at the time of his impending death, signed legal documents to keep the couple’s home out of probate, but that the law firm didn’t file the records at the courthouse before he died, as required for Carr-Blum to assume sole ownership of the house.

The man died five days after he signed the documents in the presence of the law firm’s paralegal, according to court records.

The law firm reached a settlement with Carr-Blum about a year after the lawsuit was filed, and asked in writing that Herndon permanently seal the case.

Miley has declined to discuss the sealed case during the past 18 months, even when asked about it during her current campaign for District Court. Based on an amateur video provided this week to the Review-Journal, Miley refused to discuss the lawsuit when asked about it Feb. 23 during an interview with the Las Vegas organization Veterans in Politics. In the video, Miley is seated next to Halverson while both field questions in pursuit of the group’s endorsement in the upcoming election.

During the approximately eight minute question-and-answer session, Miley said a “confidentiality agreement” between her firm and Carr-Blum prohibited her from discussing the lawsuit.

However, according to the video, Miley said, “If it (the lawsuit) becomes unsealed, I will absolutely be happy to talk about it.”

Miley and representatives of the Miley Law Firm could not be reached for comment after Wednesday’s hearing.

Contact reporter Frank Geary at fgeary@ or 702-383-0277.

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