weather icon Clear

Judicial debate: Clark County District Court, Dept. 19: Challengers criticize incumbent

A pair of attorneys hoping to replace a sitting judge leveled harsh criticisms of the incumbent in a Las Vegas Review-Journal debate.

Deputy Public Defender Fikisha Miller and private attorney Crystal Eller attacked District Judge William “Bill” Kephart’s record on the bench in Department 19, as well as his work as a prosecutor before he took the seat.

“I chose this seat to hold Mr. Kephart personally responsible,” Miller said.

She called herself the “most qualified candidate in the race” and touted her 18 years of legal experience, with work as a prosecutor and a judicial commissioner.

Eller, who has been licensed to practice law in Nevada since 1993, said Kephart “just doesn’t have the temperament to be a judge.” She pointed to Kephart’s 55 percent retention rating last year in the newspaper’s survey of lawyers.

Kephart, meanwhile, defended the score by saying it showed he was balanced in his rulings.

“It’s interesting that both these ladies that have absolutely no experience in the judiciary have the opinions they have,” he said. “They would also understand by doing their research that I have the second best reversal rate on the bench in the state of Nevada in all the felony cases and civil cases that I’ve handled since 2015. … So as a judge I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty doggone good job.”

More Judicial Debates

But Miller and Eller also brought up Kephart’s work as a prosecutor, which included the conviction of Fred Steese.

Before he was pardoned, Steese spent more than 21 years in prison for a 1992 killing he did not commit. Kephart also prosecuted Kirstin Blaise Lobato, who spent more than a decade behind bars for the killing of a homeless man before a judge ordered her released from prison in 2017.

“I cannot underscore the importance of removing Mr. Kephart from the bench,” Miller said, adding that Kephart “routinely treats people in his court with disrespect.”

Kephart said he had not been found in violation for his work on either case.

“She wasn’t even in law school when I was prosecuting those matters,” the judge said. “Things change over the time and over years.”

Kephart said Miller’s own office defended Steese.

“And the fact remains that the defense attorney failed to present evidence that may have supported his actual-innocence claim,” the judge said.

Occasionally, the focus of the debate shifted away from the judge. Responding to a question from debate moderator Victor Joecks, a columnist for the newspaper, Eller said she fought against “illegal, inappropriate and fraudulent foreclosures.”

“I’m honored to have fought for that,” she said.

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 9 primary, which is being conducted by mail, the candidate will win the election.

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.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Nevada gyms, bars that do not serve food can reopen Friday - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday evening said Phase 2 of the state’s Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery will begin on Friday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Rep. Horsford admits to having affair - VIDEO
Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford admitted to having an affair with Gabriela Linder, a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. Linder detailed her account of the affair in a podcast she called, "Mistress for Congress." (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak says businesses will begin reopening under phase 1 - VIDEO
The first phase of reopening Nevada’s businesses will begin Saturday, May 9, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden denies Tara Reade's sexual assault allegation - VIDEO
The former senate aide claims Biden assaulted her in 1993 when he was a senator. Biden first denied the accusations via a public post on Medium. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
RJ interview with Sisolak on the reopening plan for Nevada - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Review-Journal interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak on the plan for reopening Nevada during the coronavirus pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak reacts to Goodman CNN interview- VIDEO
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman repeated her call to immediately reopen businesses during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, leading to a reaction from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak praises Nevadans for staying at home, saving lives - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday it’s still too early to know when the state’s COVID-19 shutdown orders could be lifted or when businesses could start to reopen their doors. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump gives governors 3-phase approach to open US - VIDEO
President Donald Trump declared victory in America’s war against the “invisible enemy” as the president’s Coronavirus Task Force released “Opening up America Again” guidelines. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump names Jacky Rosen to task force on reopening economy - VIDEO
President Donald Trump named Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., to be a member of his Opening Up America Again Congressional Group Thursday to advise him on coronavirus policy. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders endorses Joe Biden for president - VIDEO
On April 13, former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced his official endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders drops out of 2020 Democratic race for president - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont officially announced an end to his 2020 presidential bid on Wednesday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic National Convention postponed - VIDEO
The Democratic National Convention was set to take place over four days in the middle of July. Democratic officials have now confirmed the convention will take place the week of Aug. 17. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson allows immediate sale of alcohol with curbside pickup - VIDEO
The city of Henderson decided Thursday evening to allow alcohol to be sold by restaurants as part of their curbside pickup service during the COVID-19 crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak signs order banning any gathering of 10 or more people - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signed a new order banning any gathering of 10 or more people in Nevada in another step the state has taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Takeaways from the president's daily briefing on coronavirus - VIDEO
RJ Washington correspondent Debra Saunders talks about today's daily White House news conference regarding the coronavirus outbreak, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judicial Department 5 Debate - Video
The Las Vegas Review-Journal hosts a debate between the 3 candidates running for Department 5 in Clark County District Court. Participating are Veronica M. Barisich, Terry A. Coffing and Blair Cowan Parker.
Trump cancels Las Vegas trip because of ‘coronavirus outbreak’ - VIDEO
President Donald Trump canceled planned travel to Las Vegas ‘out of an abundance of caution’ amid virus outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)