For the bench

Four incumbent judges, all recent appointees to the bench, seek election to the Clark County District Court.

In Department 4, Kerry Louise Earley was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval in June to complete the term of Kathy Hardcastle. The small number of petition signatures required to enter this race explains the crowded field of eight challengers. Judge Earley had 30 years of legal experience, much of it in high-dollar medical malpractice and complex civil litigation, to prepare her for this all-civil department. Energetic and well-versed in evidentiary law, Judge Kerry Earley should be retained.

In Department 5, Carolyn Ellsworth was appointed a year ago to replace Jackie Glass, who resigned to work in television. Judge Ellsworth has a fine judicial temperament and decades of experience as a prosecutor, counsel for Mirage Resorts and a private-practice litigator. Challenger Phung Jefferson is the wife of ex-Assemblyman Morse Arberry, whose improper spending of campaign funds was exposed by Ms. Ellsworth while she worked at the secretary of state’s office. Retain Judge Carolyn Ellsworth.

The Department 14 race features two excellent candidates. Judge Adriana Escobar was appointed to the bench in June to replace the retired Donald Mosley. Judge Escobar has been both a prosecutor and a private-practice attorney, with years of service in regulatory law as a member of the state Public Utilities Commission and the Nevada Taxicab Authority. She is challenged by former Clark County Assistant District Attorney Michael Davidson, a Martindale-Hubbell "AV Preeminent" rated criminal defense attorney who has more court experience than Judge Escobar, including hundreds more trials. Mr. Davidson, who served two terms on the State Bar Board of Governors, spent 10 years as a Supreme Court settlement conference judge and 12 years as a Juvenile Court hearing master. Voters can’t lose here, but Michael Davidson is the better candidate.

In Department 20, Judge Jerry Tao was appointed to the bench in January 2011 to replace David Wall, who resigned to work in private practice. In the Review-Journal’s 2011 "Judging the Judges" survey, 80 percent of attorneys recommended retaining him. Voters should enthusiastically retain the thoughtful and energetic Judge Jerry Tao over challenger Chris Rasmussen.

Las Vegas Justice Court Department 1, incumbent Deborah Lippis received a 69 percent retention rating in the Review-Journal’s 2011 judges survey; she should be retained over Vincent Ginn.

In Las Vegas Justice Court Department 5, incumbent William Jansen, a former career FBI agent, received a 73 percent retention rating in the Review-Journal’s 2011 "Judging the Judges" survey; he should be retained over Cynthia Dustin-Cruz.

In Las Vegas Justice Court Department 8, incumbent Ann E. Zimmerman is challenged by local trial attorney Amy Chelini. Judge Zimmerman’s retention score has been dropping – it was down to 68 percent this year, with one-third of lawyers rating her less than adequate in properly applying the law. Most troubling, however, was Judge Zimmerman’s attempt to hire ethically challenged former Assemblyman Morse Arberry for $124,000 to lobby the Legislature on behalf of Clark County judges and Las Vegas justices of the peace – while he was still an assemblyman. This was a massive lapse in judgment that makes her unsuitable for re-election. Amy Chelini is the better choice in Department 8.

In North Las Vegas Justice Court Department 1, criminal defense attorney Kalani Hoo has worked as a substitute judge for more than a year. He understands the significance of signing a search warrant and the gravity of a criminal conviction for a defendant. He’s a better choice than local attorney Jonathan MacArthur, who has attracted disciplinary attention more than once: he lost his job as a substitute judge in this court in 2007 for posting on his MySpace web page that he was interested in "breaking my foot off in a prosecutor’s ass"; and he received a letter of reprimand from the State Bar after he was accused of trying to bribe a witness in order to change his testimony in a criminal case. The Review-Journal endorses Kalani Hoo.

For the state Supreme Court, Justices Michael Cherry, Michael Douglas and Nancy Saitta are unopposed.

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