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Early results favor incumbent in Las Vegas Justice Court race

Updated November 4, 2020 - 1:01 pm

Clark County voters were asked on the general election ballot to choose between the incumbent or the challenger in two judicial races in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas justice courts.

Early results released Wednesday morning pointed to Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan retaining her seat on the bench. But North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Chris Lee was losing his bid to keep his seat.

Some mail ballots have yet to be counted, which could change the results of some close races.

According to the preliminary results, Sullivan had 73 percent of the vote, while opponent Shanon Clowers-Sanborn had 27 percent. Meanwhile, challenger Belinda T. “BTH” Harris had received 58 percent of the vote to Lee’s 42 percent.

Justices of the peace serve six-year terms.

Here’s a look at the circumstances surrounding each Justice Court race:

Las Vegas Justice Court

Sullivan was among two sitting judges in Las Vegas Justice Court up for re-election this year. Her colleague, incumbent Eric Goodman, ran unopposed in the June primary election.

Sullivan, who has spent a dozen years on the bench, faced a challenge in the general election from Clowers-Sanborn, a deputy district attorney for roughly 15 years in Clark County.

The incumbent was elected to the bench in 2008 and retained in 2014. In the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s 2019 Judicial Performance Evaluation, which asked Clark County lawyers to rate the performance of 89 sitting judges, 69 percent of participating attorneys voted to keep Sullivan on the bench.

Her opponent has handled several high-profile prosecutions in her time with the district attorney’s office. But Clowers-Sanborn has said, she’s ready to expand her influence on the criminal justice system.

“I want to have more impact on the community than I do as a district attorney, even though to be fair I think being a district attorney is a very powerful position,” she said. “I use the criminal justice system to help people, and I could do that even more so as a judge.”

North Las Vegas Justice Court

At North Las Vegas Justice Court, Lee, who was elected in 2008, has served on the bench for 12 years. He wants six more years.

But Harris, a deputy public defender who recently found herself at the center of police and media attention during a Black Lives Matter protest, could unseat him.

Harris was working as a legal observer in June when she was detained by police on the Strip during a protest. Lee has been critical of Harris’ actions while she campaigned for public office.

“It’s no time to be an activist at this point,” Lee said. “If there are any questions about whether my opponent is an activist or will be an activist on the bench, you can certainly Google her name. … It’s important that you have someone with experience to make sure our community is safe.”

Harris’ encounter with police came under scrutiny after authorities called her claim that she was thrown to the ground “unfounded.” She was one of 15 legal observers who walked the Strip among hundreds of protesters peacefully demonstrating against police brutality.

“I’ve never been a witness to such civil unrest,” Harris previously told the Review-Journal. “So to see the dialogue and the interactions and different things, it has all been extremely enlightening.”

In the Review-Journal judicial survey, Lee earned a 76 percent retention rating, earning high marks for fairness and efficiency. He also serves as a captain in the Air Force Reserves JAG Corps.

His opponent, who was born and raised in North Las Vegas, has called herself “the most authentic candidate in this race.”

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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