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Law clerk, attorney argue qualifications in race for Family Court judge

Updated September 30, 2020 - 12:21 pm

A law clerk and a private practice attorney got heated debating the issues Family Court faces in the race for judgeship.

Attorney Mary Perry and Family Court law clerk Sara Dayani are competing for a seat in Family Court Department P caused by the retirement of incumbent Judge Sandra Pomrenze, who was called “drunk on her own power” by attorneys during the 2019 Judicial Performance Evaluation. The two candidates participated in a combative debate hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and moderated by Politics and Government Editor Steve Sebelius.

Perry, a single mother who served eight years in the Air Force before being in the first graduating class of University of Nevada Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law, started the attacks in her opening statement when explaining why she has a leg up on her opponent after representing 1,000 clients and consulting thousands more.

“I believe experience in the courtroom is a very important part of becoming a judge. Practical, hands-on application of real-life facts to the law is the best way to learn to apply to the law as a judge,” Perry said.

Dayani acknowledged she lacks in only one aspect of Perry’s experience: candidacy. Perry ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016 as a Republican, winning 29 percent of the vote and losing to Dina Titus. Two years earlier, she was defeated in the primaries when running for a seat on the Clark County District Court bench.

“Quite frankly the only experience I’m lacking in this campaign is the experience that my opponent does have because she ran for office three times now. You probably know her name because she ran for Congress in 2016 against Dina Titus. I have put my life, my professional career into family court,” Dayani said.

Dayani, a Bonanza High School and Boyd School of Law graduate, said she’s more qualified to be a neutral observer because she’s served under three judges and says many attorneys find being neutral the hardest transition into judgeship.

“I’ve been trained to think as a neutral,” she said. “I have heard so many judges step on the bench and say that they didn’t realize how hard it is to switch gears from being an advocate to be a neutral.”

Perry said her consultations and her case preparation for every client she represents have given her neutral eyes for all cases.

“I approach every single one of my cases in a neutral manner because if I can’t determine what the other side is going to go with, then I’m not doing my client any good,” she said. “There’s no way I would have the reputation of being fair to both sides as what I have right now.”

Perry said she’d like to continue the use of BlueJeans, the virtual courtroom introduced during the pandemic, so that parents don’t have to find child care during court proceedings or pay attorneys for time waiting before a case. She said this would lower for the cost of litigation because while attorneys wait for their client’s case to be heard, they can do other things.

Dayani said the courtrooms are struggling with BlueJeans because some residents don’t have access to technology, among other problems with the app. She said she’d like to see more training for court personnel on handling cases involving domestic violence and mental health.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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