Small-town justice often carries the stigma of favoritism and incestuousness — and an ongoing case in Boulder City highlights the reason why.
Back in June 2016, the town’s police department carried out a sting operation to punish drivers who failed to yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Boulder City resident John Hunt was one of the ticketed motorists.
Mr. Hunt felt his citation was unfair. He returned to the scene and proceeded to walk back and forth through the crosswalk, according to reports. His protest caught the attention of police — officers forcibly put Mr. Hunt on the ground, slapped on the cuffs and arrested him for a litany of offenses, most better known as “contempt of cop.”
According to Channel 8’s George Knapp, the police report “alleged that the suspect caused a vehicle to slam on its brakes and skid to a stop.” But the police dashcam video captured nothing of the sort, so the city attorney “decided to drop the charges,” Mr. Knapp reports.
Last May, Mr. Hunt filed a civil rights complaint against Boulder City. Not coincidentally, a new city attorney responded by recharging Mr. Hunt with five misdemeanor counts stemming from his crosswalk protest.
In February, Mr. Hunt’s lawyer, Stephen Stubbs, took to social media to protest his client’s predicament. Mr. Stubbs criticized the new city attorney, Steve Morris, and questioned his decision to proceed to trial on the issue. “So much for the 1st Amendment,” read the post.
In response, Boulder City’s lone judge, Victor Miller — apparently having forgotten what he was taught in constitutional law class — issued a gag order preventing Mr. Stubbs or Mr. Hunt from criticizing Mr. Morris. Yes, a gag order in a misdemeanor case involving traffic violations.
Lo and behold, it turns out that … wait for it … Judge Miller and Mr. Morris are hardly strangers. Mr. Morris “also happens to be the stake president for the LDS church in Boulder City,” Mr. Knapp reveals, “meaning he’s the spiritual leader for all of the town’s Mormons, including the judge.”
This case reeks of misconduct, cronyism and vindictiveness. The outrageous gag order was a particular affront — and, sure enough, District Judge Susan Johnson ruled last month that Judge Miller had exceeded his authority. The order, she wrote, ”is so broad both Mr. Stubbs and Mr. Morris could violate the mandate if they disparage their adversary even in private conversation.”
Judge Miller, who has served since 1984 and is running for re-election, has since recused himself from the Hunt case. Meanwhile, Mr. Morris told the Boulder City Review that he will continue to prosecute Mr. Hunt. And Mr. Stubbs tells Mr. Knapp that he will no longer represent clients in Boulder City because he doesn’t think he can get them a fair shake from the town’s parochial players.
Boulder City officials haven’t done themselves any favors with their handling of this matter. There’s a word for what’s happened in this case — and it’s not “justice.”