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EDITORIAL: Judicial discipline

The state Judicial Discipline Commission last week dropped the hammer on Catherine Ramsey, a North Las Vegas Municipal Court judge.

After Judge Ramsey admitted to seven charges of professional misconduct, the panel barred her from seeking re-election next year and suspended her without pay for the final three months of her six-year term.

While it would be preferable if voters determined Judge Ramsey’s professional future, the commission’s action sends a strong message that judges have a responsibility to both the public and the legal profession to maintain high standards of integrity.

And while we’re on the topic of judicial integrity, let’s hope the commission also takes a hard look at the behavior of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen.

Judge Hafen in May garnered national attention when he ordered a public defender handcuffed and confined to the jury box after she tried to argue on behalf of her client. A group of defense attorney’s subsequently filed a complaint with the Judicial Discipline Commission arguing the judge’s actions showed “a complete disregard for the law.”

Then, earlier this month during a preliminary hearing, the judge banished the relatives of murder victims from his court and threatened to have an R-J reporter arrested for recording audio of the proceedings, a routine practice.

Judge Hafen failed to advance past the June primary election in his effort to secure a second term, so the discipline commission may be inclined to pass on the matter. In fact, though, a strong statement from the panel acknowledging that his behavior was inexcusable and unprofessional might go a long way toward deterring other jurists who may have similar proclivities.

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