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EDITORIAL: Judicial races

Nevada remains among about two dozen states that hold contested judicial elections.

A number of judicial incumbents failed to attract challengers this cycle, leaving two state Supreme Court justices and the three members of the state Court of Appeals all unopposed. The Clark County ballot features just two races for District Court and four campaigns for Las Vegas Justice Court.

In District Court Department 20, Judge Eric Johnson faces Anat Levy. Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Johnson, a federal prosecutor for 20 years, to the bench in May 2015. Since then, Judge Johnson has handled a number of high-profile cases, upholding the constitutionality of the ambitious school choice plan lawmakers endorsed last session. Judge Johnson touts his “breadth of knowledge” and says it’s vital to “take time” and “listen” to both sides.

Anat Levy has an extensive legal background built on 29 years in practice, mostly in California. She has the experience to be a respected and successful jurist, but Judge Johnson has done an excellent job during his limited tenure and we see no reason for his ouster. Eric Johnson deserves to be re-elected.

In District Court Department 15, Judge Joe Hardy Jr. is running against Bruce Gale. Judge Hardy is facing voters for the first time after receiving an appointment last year to fill a vacancy on the bench. He has a strong disposition for transparency and an aversion to the increasingly common practice of sealing records. His goal, he says, is to be “fair and impartial to everyone.”

Mr. Gale has almost 30 years of legal experience and has run unsuccessfully for judicial office more than a half dozen times. He’s an affable, energetic fellow but offers no compelling reason why Judge Hardy should be returned to private practice. We recommend a vote for Joe Hardy Jr.

Las Vegas Justice Court handles felony arraignments and preliminary hearings in addition to most misdemeanors.

In Justice Court Department 3, challenger Harmony Letizia seeks to replace incumbent Janiece Marshall. Ms. Letizia, a public defender, has long ties to the community and is an excellent fund raiser. But Judge Marshall has six years of experience on the bench and has been a strong advocate for programs that divert low-level offenders into counseling and vocational training designed to reduce recidivism. We recommend a vote for Janiece Marshall.

In Justice Court Department 6, incumbent Bita Yeager deserves to be re-elected over challenger Rebecca Kern, who is barely a decade out of law school.

In Justice Court Department 7, incumbent Karen Bennett faces a challenge from Vinny Ginn. Judge Bennett has a reputation for being overly sympathetic to criminal defendants. Mr. Ginn has been both a city prosecutor and a defense attorney and says the only thing he can promise is to be “fair and just.” Vinny Ginn is our choice in this race.

Finally, in Justice Court Department 13, incumbent Suzan Baucum’s experience and temperament makes her the clear choice over public defender Shana Bachman.

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