An aspiring judge and an incumbent appointed nearly a year ago are facing off in the upcoming general election for Clark County District Court’s Department 8 judicial seat.
Trevor Atkin and Jessica Peterson are both vying for the bench, which currently oversees civil and probate cases. While the position is normally determined by voters, Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed Atkin as a judge in August 2019 to replace Douglas Smith, who retired in April of that year.
During a judicial debate moderated by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Atkins said his 32-year career makes him qualified to keep the position, while Peterson, who has practiced for 20 years, said she has more knowledge of different areas of the law.
“I would distinguish between the two of us, my understanding is that he has practiced primarily insurance defense, representing insurance companies,” Peterson said about her opponent. “I have represented individuals, businesses, I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants, and I have been practicing in all of the various different areas of the law, including criminal law.”
Atkin said that during his years as a trial lawyer, he worked on cases including medical malpractice, insurance defense and constitutional issues.
“The voters, I think, deserve experience, because experience matters,” he said.
Atkin has worked as a managing partner at Atkin Winner & Sherrod, and helped start the firm in 2004. He is a Las Vegas native and received his law degree in 1987 from the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, according to his biography on the District Court’s website.
He was an adjunct legal instructor with the University of Nevada system from 1994 to 1996. From 2010 to 2014 he served as an appointed trustee with the Nevada Law Foundation, which provides funding for the “legally disadvantaged,” according to the court website.
Peterson graduated in 2000 from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University, and is currently a junior partner at the Flangas Dalacas Law Group in Las Vegas, according to her election website.
She moved to Las Vegas in 2007, has been a court appointed arbitrator since 2016 and has served as a truancy diversion judge for three years.
“In my particular instance, I created my career, and I developed my career, around my ultimate goal to be a judge,” Peterson said in the Review-Journal debate.
During the debate, both candidates agreed that the U.S. Constitution should be considered a living document. Both also said lawyers should be able to practice more pro-bono work in Clark County.
When asked what he would do if handling a hypothetical case involving a coronavirus patient seeking to sue their employer, Atkin said he was a “firm believer in judges following the law, not writing the law from the bench.”
Peterson agreed, stating she would “plain and simple, follow the law.”
Both candidates ended the debate by again emphasizing their experience.
“I invite the Clark County voters to look me up,” Atkin said, adding that his application paperwork for his current judicial seat is online.
“My life and legal experiences have taught me to be thoughtful, objective decisive, compassionate and fair, and I will bring those qualities to the bench,” Peterson said.