Four attorneys vying for an open seat on the Family Court bench emphasized the importance of prioritizing children in domestic violence cases during a debate hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Judicial hopefuls Randall Forman, Michele Mercer, Romeo Perez and Kevin Speed also explained how they would make an effort to treat everyone who steps into their courtroom fairly if they were elected. They are running for the seat in Department Z, one of six new Family Court positions.
Debate moderator Steve Sebelius, the newspaper’s politics and government editor, asked the candidates how they would balance visitation rights with the need to keep victims and kids safe in cases involving domestic violence, one of the most common issues handled in Family Court.
Mercer, a family law attorney and temporary hearing master in Family Court who has been licensed in Nevada since 1998, said her experience has equipped her to handle domestic violence cases fairly. She said she thinks it’s important for a judge to gather all available information and make an effort to understand each family and its history before making a decision.
“It’s important … to try to make sure there’s as much access that the children have with their parents while they’re going through this extremely different time, even if it’s limited in-person temporarily or if it’s through FaceTime visitations, as long as we can make sure that the best interests of the children are met during this hard, difficult period,” Mercer said.
Speed, a criminal defense attorney at the Clark County public defender’s office who has been licensed in Nevada since 2004, added that while he believes the top priority should always be the best interest of the child, the next highest priority should be the victim.
“The most important factor that we must consider when making any decision as the judge is what’s in the best interest of the child,” Speed said. “Following that, making sure that the abused spouse is kept safe and protected from any further harm.”
When asked about how he would deal with difficult people in court, Perez, who owns his own law office and has been licensed in Nevada since 2003, said he would prioritize honesty.
“Dealing with difficult people is not that difficult when you set your emotions aside and simply put out your argument,” Perez said. “You put out the reasons behind your argument, and then you win.”
Forman, a staff attorney for Family Court who has been licensed in Nevada since 2009, said he would take his experience as the child of divorced parents to help understand where people are coming from in Family Court.
“I have the intellect, the patience and the demeanor to make an excellent judge,” Forman said. “I know what families go through in the middle of a divorce. I know how it affects our children. I know that a judge with compassion and kindness will be the best thing for Clark County.”
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.