January 24, 2016 - 10:11 am
There’s good news and bad news on the North Las Vegas Municipal Court bench.
The good news is that embattled Judge Catherine Ramsey may finally be leaving the bench, where her tenure has been marked by harassment allegations, misspent city dollars, a stalled recall campaign and an ongoing feud with the city attorney’s office that may have cost North Las Vegas thousands of dollars.
The bad news? She’s going for a promotion to the District Court bench! Ramsey has filed for election to the District Court Department 20 seat currently filled by Judge Eric Johnson.
It’s up to Clark County voters to prevent Ramsey from bringing her particular brand of judicial chaos to the District Court bench. And there are plenty of good reasons they should, too.
Ramsey has faced formal complaints and lawsuits filed by court employees, resulting in investigations and settlements that cost city taxpayers more than $50,000. Allegations ranged from wrongful termination of a longtime court employee to intimidation, discrimination and harassment of other employees.
In the course of defending herself against those lawsuits, North Las Vegas declined to pay for Ramsey’s legal defense, so she used a city purchase card to charge at least $12,000 in legal fees to city accounts. The rift has been widened and deepened by rulings Ramsey has made that the city contends cost taxpayers money.
After a recall election was launched against Ramsey and 2,700 signatures collected (at least 1,984 were required for the recall to succeed), Ramsey advanced a unique legal theory: Judges cannot be recalled by the voters who elected them in the first place. She’s pursued that contention all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the question. In the meantime, the recall is on hold. If she’s elected to the District Court bench, she’ll escape the wrath of North Las Vegas voters, as the recall will be moot.
Ramsey contends she’s acted properly, and that the city of North Las Vegas and its police officers are angry because they disagree with her rulings. She gamely contends the dispute is a matter of separation of powers between the municipal government and the local judicial branch.
The editorial board of the Review-Journal has spent a great deal of time interviewing judicial candidates in recent years, in order to make well-informed recommendations to voters about who should and should not serve on the local bench. We can say with great confidence that Ramsey has no business serving as a judge, either in District Court or in North Las Vegas. We’re enthusiastic about the prospect of her departure from the courtroom, but it would be a shame — not to mention an unreasonable risk — if she were to move up despite her record. Voters should finish what petition circulators started, and reject Ramsey.