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A ‘dismal professional history’

It’s been written that editorial writers come down from the hillside after a battle to shoot the wounded. The Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission followed suit in delivering what should be a coup de grace to the brief political career of Elizabeth Halverson.

In a firmly worded 28-page decision, the commission on Monday removed Ms. Halverson from the District Court bench to which she was elected in 2006. Ms. Halverson had been suspended from office with pay for more than a year because of outrageous and inappropriate behavior. In the August primary, voters decided against retaining her beyond her single, two-year term. Following her election defeat, Ms. Halverson was savagely beaten by her husband, hospitalizing her for more than two weeks.

The commission’s decision, in addition to finally cutting her off from her $130,000 annual salary, carries the added penalty of prohibiting her from ever again overseeing a Nevada courtroom.

“The damage resulting from her antics and willful misconduct will be felt by the judicial system for a significant future period of time,” the commission’ report said.

The commission found sufficient evidence that Ms. Halverson, 51, mistreated her staff, improperly interacted with jurors and compromised cases before her, fell asleep in her courtroom and made previous outbreaks of black robe fever seem like the sniffles by comparison — all in barely six months on the bench.

“Some judges are in office for an entire career and do not accumulate the type of dismal professional history that the record in this case establishes,” the report said. “No employee, even those inured to a judge’s mercurial temperament and foul mouth should have to experience what Judge Halverson made her immediate staff live and work through.”

Ms. Halverson can appeal the case to the Nevada Supreme Court, but she should cut her losses at this point with the knowledge that she has a special place in the history of Nevada’s worst elected officials.

The Judicial Discipline Commission deserves some credit for acting with urgency last year in suspending Ms. Halverson from office. As obvious as it was that Ms. Halverson was a pox on the court, her due process rights couldn’t simply be voided for the convenience of the state. Her case was highly unusual, to say the least.

But the commission shouldn’t have needed nearly 18 months to decide its case against Ms. Halverson, which allowed her to collect almost $200,000 in taxpayer-funded compensation for doing precisely nothing. Voters clearly had enough information to reject her candidacy in this year’s primary election.

The Judicial Discipline Commission made the right decision. But next time it goes to work on such serious complaints, the panel must pick up the pace of justice.

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