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Judicial debate: Clark County District Court, Dept. 15: Incumbent faces criticism from opponents

District Judge Joe Hardy Jr., hoping to keep his seat in the 2020 election, faced criticism from his two opponents during a Las Vegas Review-Journal debate.

He also defended his results in the Review-Journal’s 2019 Judicial Performance Evaluation.

In a survey taken by the newspaper last year, 77 percent of responding lawyers said Hardy should be retained. Moderator Victor Joecks, a political columnist, called that a “C grade.”

Hardy pointed out that he was in “basically the top third” of 29 judges rated, “which I think goes to my firmness, fairness and ability to be a good judge and serve the voters here in Clark County.”

He is being challenged in Department 15 by Tegan Machnich, a deputy public defender, and civil attorney Adam Breeden.

In primary races where no candidate captures a majority of votes cast, the top two finishers will advance to November’s general election. If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the June primary, the candidate will win the election.

In her closing statement during the debate, Machnich suggested that Hardy, who was appointed in 2015 and retained by voters the following year, earned his seat because his father, Joe Hardy Sr., is a Nevada senator.

“It’s time for a change,” said Machnich, who earned her law license in 2009. “Far too many of our judges got to where they are because of the political connections of their parents. You deserve a judge who has earned that position with their hard work, experience, expertise and skill.”

Breeden, licensed in Nevada in 2004, added that “change is needed badly in Department 15 for our community. In a short time in office, Mr. Hardy has an abysmal record of 40 percent error on appeal.”

In a question-and-answer session, Joecks asked Machnich whether it was appropriate for judicial candidates to “flaunt their political ideology,” referring to a statement on her campaign website that said she was “excited about the upcoming election because of the many progressive and diverse candidates who are daring to run for the bench this year.”

Judicial elections in Nevada are nonpartisan, and candidates are limited in what they are allowed to say on the campaign trail.

“I think you can be judicially progressive and diverse without speaking to your politics,” Machnich said. “That statement goes to being judicially progressive and experienced.”

The moderator went on to ask each of the candidates whether they interpreted the Constitution as a “living document” or would adhere to the original text.

“Politically, many people would describe me as a liberal,” Breeden said. “But my judicial philosophy is that of an originalist or an intentionalist, meaning that the first thing we need to look at is what’s actually written down on paper.”

Hardy said he would “look to the plain language first and foremost, and if there’s ambiguity you can look into the intent of the Legislature.”

Machnich said she “would look to follow the letter of the law of the laws of the state of Nevada as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”

The newspaper is hosting 23 events for more than 70 candidates in judicial primary races for Family Court, District Court and the Nevada Supreme Court.

While the debates can be found on reviewjournal.com, they air Wednesday and Saturday nights on Cox Cable’s YurView Channel 14 as part of a video partnership between the media companies.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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