Two days after being voted out of office, suspended District Judge Elizabeth Halverson got a bit of good news Thursday when the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline dismissed a handful of charges against her.
The embattled judge still faces 11 of the original 14 allegations of judicial misconduct that could end with her permanent removal from the bench, including improperly communicating with jurors during trials, falling asleep on the bench and mistreating employees.
Halverson, who was suspended in July 2007 and continues to collect her $130,000 annual pay, finished third in Tuesday’s primary and will not advance to the general election in November.
“I don’t really have anything to say on that matter, and certainly not to the Review-Journal,” she said about the election, citing negative articles about her in the newspaper.
At the hearing Halverson’s lawyer, Michael Schwartz, argued for the dismissal of all 14 counts against her, citing a combination of legal technicalities and lack of evidence.
The commission unanimously voted to dismiss some of the charges, including some involving the creation of a hostile work environment, improperly contacting a Family Court hearing master and failing to explain written order procedures to her clerks.
Halverson was the day’s only witness. She continued her testimony that was cut short last week when she suffered a hypoglycemic attack.
Her testimony Thursday was often redundant, so much so that the presiding commissioner, District Judge Richard Wagner, frequently stopped Halverson in the middle of her rambling answers and urged the lawyers to ask more pointed questions.
Halverson addressed many of the allegations in the commission’s complaint.
One count accuses Halverson of using the term “faux Jew” in front of two of her staffers.
Halverson explained she used the term as a joke in comparing the two women, one who was a devout Jew and one who was not.
Special prosecutor Dorothy Nash Holmes said whether the term was intended as a joke or not made no difference.
“A judge shouldn’t say these things when talking to staff,” she said.
Halverson, 50, later broke into tears when testifying about finding evidence of what she called ticket fixing by her then-executive assistant, Ileen Spoor.
“There were hundreds of tickets, and I thought, ‘This is so inappropriate,'” she said. “I was stunned. I was devastated when I found out what was going on in my office.”
When Nash Holmes asked Halverson why she cried, she said, “I didn’t realize it still affected me so badly.”
Spoor testified last week that she did nothing wrong by referring traffic tickets to lawyers.
Halverson testified that she found e-mails on Spoor’s computer showing a conspiracy among court employees to get the media to “print nasty articles” about her.
The hearing resumes at 8 a.m. today at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Schwartz said he plans to call as many witnesses as possible before the 5:30 p.m. cutoff set by Wagner to let commission members catch flights out of town.
If closing arguments are not made by that time, both sides will submit written arguments.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at email@example.com or 702-383-0281.