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Public defender challenging incumbent judge in Department 29

Incumbent District Court Judge David Jones is fighting a single challenger, public defender David López-Negrete, to retain his seat in Department 29.

Jones was originally appointed to the bench but ran unopposed in 2018 to win election in his own right. In the Review-Journal’s 2019 Judging the Judge’s survey, he received a retention score of 85 percent, one of the highest in the report.

“My judicial philosophy is an open door for justice for all,” Jones said in a Review-Journal debate. “In my courtroom, I apply the law fairly for all litigants no matter their position.”

López-Negrete has worked in the public defender’s office since 2010, and for the past five years has served as the chief deputy of the office’s sexual abuse defense team.

His campaign slogan is “Equal justice under the law,” and should he be elected, López-Negrete wants to ensure disadvantaged members of the community are treated fairly in the justice system.

He also intends to support specialty court programs and diversionary programs, like treatment for offenders with mental illnesses, so the system can better address the root causes of offenses.

López-Negrete added that his experience as a public defender handling a high-volume caseload and working with people from all walks of life would benefit him in the courtroom. So far, López-Negrete has been endorsed by Hispanics in Politics.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to make equality a reality,” he said. “I firmly believe that Black lives matter, no more, but not one ounce less than anybody else.”

Jones agreed there is unequal treatment in court, not just for racial minorities, but also for litigants who can’t afford their own attorney. He says he takes extra time with people who are representing themselves to ensure they have access to all the resources available at the court to assist them in presenting their case.

Jones has been endorsed by unions including the Nevada State AFL-CIO, the International Association of Firefighters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Southern Nevada Building Trades Unions.

López-Negrete said he would follow all public safety guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, but wants to work towards a safe return to in-person hearings. A person’s presence in court is valuable, López-Negrete said, and the convenience of video hearings should not overshadow this.

Jones agreed with López-Negrete on the use of specialty courts to divert cases to judges with expertise in certain areas, including drugs, gambling and other issues. He also said trial courts could help the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals with cases by establishing a clear and complete record on which a final decision can be made.

Contact Amanda Bradford at abradford@reviewjournal.com. Follow @amandabrad_uc on Twitter.

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