EDITORIAL: For District Court, Departments 8, 14 and 20

The Review-Journal editorial board offers the following endorsements in this fall’s elections for District Court, Departments 8, 14 and 20.

In Department 8, Christine Guerci-Nyhus is challenging incumbent Judge Doug Smith, one of the worst jurists in the state. In last year’s Review-Journal Judicial Performance Evaluation, less than half of the attorneys who participated in the survey said Judge Smith should be retained.

Judge Smith is out of his depth on the District Court bench, consistently demonstrating a level of incompetence that is exceeded only by his arrogance. His rulings are so poorly thought out that they practically beg for Supreme Court reversal. And the justices of Nevada’s highest court have been too happy to oblige, setting aside nearly two dozen of his rulings in the past four-plus years. That number could creep even higher by the time you finish this editorial.

That’s because the Supreme Court is certain to reverse last year’s ruling by Judge Smith that the email addresses of Clark County School District teachers are not public records. It might be the worst-reasoned decision we’ve ever read. In fact, there was no reason behind it — just a hack judge grasping for the outcome he wanted, which differed radically from the outcome required by law. In an interview with this newspaper’s editorial board, Judge Smith labored to defend his decision.

“You have to balance children’s rights against the need for disclosure. You don’t just disclose because you can,” he said in ignoring the state’s public records law, which clearly states that government records are presumed to be open unless specifically declared confidential. “That’s why we have appellate courts. Sometimes you have to make equitable decisions, decisions based on equity, not what the law says.”

Not what the law says? In his own words, Judge Smith has clearly articulated why he cannot be trusted with a gavel for even one more minute.

Previous Nevada Supreme Court reversals have said Judge Smith “was inattentive to the possibility of a constitutional right being violated” and used “an arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion.” In two cases, Judge Smith was found to have coerced defendants into accepting plea bargains under the threat of harsh sentences, which resulted in the cases being returned to District Court and assigned to new judges. What a waste of time and taxpayer resources. Judge Smith is single-handedly ensuring the Supreme Court retains one of the country’s highest appellate caseloads.

Ms. Guerci-Nyhus gives voters an excellent alternative to the incumbent. She has a wide range of civil and criminal experience in more than 20 years of practicing law. In recent years, she has served as Henderson’s interim city attorney — she would have been given the permanent job if U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hadn’t intervened to get his son, Josh Reid, the position — and a chief deputy attorney general. Department 8 is desperate for someone who is fair, prepared, and respects and understands the law. The Review-Journal endorses Christine Guerci-Nyhus in District Court, Department 8.

In Department 14, Judge Adrianna Escobar faces a challenge from Michael Root. Judge Escobar was appointed to the bench by Gov. Brian Sandoval in June 2012 and five months later won election to a two-year unexpired term. In last year’s Review-Journal survey, 71 percent of attorneys who participated in the survey said Judge Escobar should be retained. Prior to her appointment, she worked in private practice and for the attorney general’s office, and she served on the Public Utilities Commission and the Nevada Taxicab Authority. Mr. Root has more than 30 years of legal experience and pledges to bring honesty and fairness to the bench. We believe Department 14 already has those attributes. The Review-Journal endorses Judge Adrianna Escobar.

Judge Jerry Tao, seeking re-election to Department 20, was one of the highest-rated jurists in last year’s Review-Journal survey, with 86 percent of participating attorneys recommending his retention. Judge Tao’s scores are rooted in his work ethic, his preparation and his application of the law. He is being challenged by Nicholas Perrino. As part of his more than 40 years of legal experience, Mr. Perrino served as in-house counsel to PurchasePro President and CEO Charles “Junior” Johnson, who was convicted of stock fraud and obstruction of justice in a massive Las Vegas swindle. Mr. Perrino was never accused of wrongdoing in the case, but his years of touting Johnson and the company are more than enough to scare us away from his candidacy. That makes the air-tight case for re-electing Judge Tao even stronger. The Review-Journal endorses Judge Jerry Tao in Department 20.

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