Nevada Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Tao is running for the Nevada Supreme Court as an originalist, because “we need to be faithful to the words of the statute and the constitution.” Tao said his judicial philosophy is what earned him an endorsement from the NRA. He then decried as “frivolous” an ethics complaint filed against him for describing the Nevada Supreme Court as liberal.
“If elected, I would be the first avowed originalist and textualist to serve on the Nevada Supreme Court,” said Tao while filming Nevada Politics Today. “Honestly, I think it’s about time that we had someone like that.
“Some of the rulings the Nevada Supreme Court has issued in the past have been a little bit loose on the law and the constitution. I think the constitution should be strictly and narrowly construed.”
Tao cited the Supreme Court’s 2003 Guinn v. Legislature decision as an example of judicial activism run amok. He said, “The Nevada Supreme Court basically had one provision of the Nevada Constitution overrule another.” After a voter backlash, the Nevada Supreme Court eventually repudiated that decision.
“We need to be faithful to the words of the statute and the constitution, not our own personal policy preferences,” said Tao. “We’re elected to interpret the law and the constitution, not to impose our views of the law on people — not to legislate from the bench is the saying everyone uses. We have to be very careful when we wander into the policy arena.”
Before he got the bench, Tao said his work didn’t require him to have a well-formed judicial philosophy. Twenty years ago, he was a speechwriter for Reid. He also worked as a district attorney.
“Now I have to have one and have spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Tao said. “This is the philosophy that makes the most sense to me and that I think is the most true to the vision of our Founding Fathers.”
Tao said he earned the endorsement of the NRA, because of his “view of the constitution.”
“Our state constitution is actually much more protective of the individual right to own firearms than the national constitution is,” he said. “What the NRA cares about are judges who are faithful to the constitution, who are going to implement it as written, as our Founding Fathers envisioned it, and not impose their own policy preferences.
“You may like guns. You may dislike guns, but it’s not your job to change the constitution. And our constitution is much more protective than the federal constitution is.”
Someone filed an ethics complaint against Tao for saying the current state Supreme Court has a liberal judicial philosophy. Tao said that complaint was a “frivolous” campaign stunt.
“My statement was the Nevada Supreme Court has a certain point of view, which can be described as liberal,” he said. “Loose constitutionalism, non-strict constitutionalism is generally called a liberal point of view.
“People talk about the U.S. Supreme Court. There are liberal justices. There are conservative judges. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are Democrats or Republicans.”
Tao declined to support appointing judges, instead of having elections, but said judicial elections “shouldn’t be as politicized as it’s come to be.” Judges call “balls and strikes and that doesn’t depend on our party affiliation.”