weather icon Clear

Nevada Supreme Court candidate defends campaign literature

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is investigating whether state Supreme Court candidate Jerry Tao improperly used partisan language in a campaign flyer and on his campaign website.

Complaints to the commission are not disclosed publicly unless action is taken, but Tao said he received a call this summer from an investigator who asked about the campaign materials, which included terms such as “left” and “liberal.”

Tao, who faces District Judge Elissa Cadish in the Nov. 6 election, called the ethics complaint “abusive and a waste of the commission’s time.”

“I am not talking about the party registration of any particular person,” Tao said this week. “That is not what the flyer says. I am talking about a philosophy, what I see in the court system as a whole.”

Judicial races in Nevada are nonpartisan.

“While judges and candidates may properly respond to questions regarding their party affiliation, it is impermissible in campaign materials for them to align themselves with a political party or to affiliate themselves with a political party,” according to the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct.

Tao said he was given little information about the investigation, but the commission’s investigator specifically asked about his website, which references school choice, and the campaign flyer.

“I stand by the flyer, because I signed off on it and put my name behind it,” Tao said.

The flyer is written in the form of a letter and begins by stating that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked the Nevada judiciary “as one of the most liberal, anti-business courts in the nation.”

Tao said the investigator specifically mentioned a section of the flyer that reads:

“Is the Court going to drift even further to the left or can we change its direction? Do we want a Court that gets even more liberal or can we make it one that follows the Constitution and believes in individual liberty?”

A campaign manager for Cadish, David Thomas, said neither he nor Cadish filed the complaint.

However, Thomas said, “I think it’s not an appropriate letter. Judges and justices are supposed to run with no political bias at all. That tends to indicate he’s going to have a bias.”

Tao dropped his Democratic registration and registered as a nonpartisan before filing for Seat C on the Supreme Court.

Tao, who was appointed in 2014 to the Nevada Court of Appeals by Gov. Brian Sandoval, sat on the Clark County District Court bench from 2011 until he was appointed to the higher court.

Cadish, a Democrat, has served as a Clark County district judge since 2007.

Both Cadish and Tao have ties to former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Tao once worked as Reid’s speechwriter. In 2012, Cadish was proposed by Reid for a federal judgeship but was blocked by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Tao said that after he was contacted by the discipline commission’s investigator, he asked two law professors to provide a legal analysis.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh and law professor Bradley Smith from Capital University in Ohio wrote a six-page letter to the commission in July in which they described the complaint against Tao as meritless.

“Such complaints are often intended precisely to chill constitutionally protected speech,” they wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that limits on judicial campaign speech violate the First Amendment, the professors argued.

“Once you decide that judges are going to run for office, judges have to be able to explain their general view of things,” Volokh later said in a phone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s a necessary part of debate about judicial philosophy.”

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
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)