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Judicial debate: Clark County Family Court, Dept. Y: Candidates say children should be primary focus

Two attorneys vying for an open seat on the Family Court bench discussed the importance of protecting children in custody battles and child welfare cases during a debate hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Judicial hopefuls Stephanie Charter and Karianne Molnar also explained how they would learn from other judges to perfect a patient temperament and give fair trials to litigants in their courtrooms. They are running for Department Y, one of six new Family Court positions.

A third attorney, Maricar Andrade, also is vying for the seat but did not participate in the debate.

Debate moderator Victor Joecks, a columnist for the newspaper, asked the candidates how they would try to bring a peaceful resolution in divorce cases, one of the biggest conflicts family courts face.

Charter, who has been licensed in Nevada since 1994, said she has participated in many arbitrations, mediations and custody disputes and will bring that experience to the bench if elected.

“I fully understand the best interests of children and what it takes to be sure that their interests are heard and kept at the forefront during those difficult custody battles,” Charter said. “I think judicial temperament plays a big part in those cases and bringing those cases to a resolution.”

Molnar, who has been licensed in Nevada since 2006, added that she has experience working both with clients and as a mediator in these cases. She said she’d like to implement some changes in the courtroom that allow for quicker decision-making.

As a judge, she would study the cases before hearing them in court so she can be ready to move them along quickly and fairly.

“People need timely decisions when it comes to divorce and custody cases,” Molnar said. “As a Family Court judge, I think the judge should always read through the papers, look at everything on their own and be prepared to make a decision during the hearing.”

When asked about her judicial legacy, Charter said she hopes to be remembered as the judge who did more. She said she looks up to judges who do their job well but also give back to the community.

“I always look to see whether someone has reached out beyond their work to serve the community, and that’s something I have tried to do throughout my career,” Charter said, citing her work with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and her support of the Truancy Diversion Program.

Molnar said she hopes to be remembered for her goal to keep children at the forefront, and she believes her experience in every area of Family Court prepares her best to make that goal a reality.

“As long as the children are safe and protected, I think that is the main goal of Family Court,” Molnar said. “I also want people to be heard, to have a fair opportunity and to know that they’re heard and that they matter.”

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

The debate was among 23 scheduled 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 Alexis Egeland at aegeland@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexis_egeland on Twitter.

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