2 lawyers face incumbent judge in Department 22 race

Two lawyers hope to unseat two-time incumbent District Judge Susan Johnson from her Department 22 judgeship.

Lawyers Bruce Gale and Jacob Hafter, along with Johnson, are hoping to survive the June 10 primary in the county-wide race.

And there has been no shortage of mudslinging between Johnson and Hafter, a rift that goes back to 2009.

Johnson said Hafter seems to have a bone to pick with her after he disagreed with a ruling she made back then. The judge said Hafter appealed the ruling, but the Supreme Court upheld her decision. Hafter has sought to move his cases from her courtroom ever since, the judge said.

Johnson, who received a 71 percent retention rating by lawyers in the Review-Journal’s 2013 anonymous Judging the Judges poll, primarily hears civil and construction defect cases and also hears some criminal cases.

Johnson pointed to her wealth of experience as a jurist, which separates her from her opponents.

Prior to her fourteen years on the bench, she had 21 years of legal experience. During that time, she heard more than 600 cases as an arbitrator, Johnson said.

The judge said she already is running radio advertisements for her campaign in anticipation of the primary.

Johnson, who graduated from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., and was admitted to State bar in 1985, said she didn’t know Gale.

For his part, Hafter said that it’s not that he disagreed with Johnson’s ruling in the 2009 case. It’s that Johnson was discourteous.

“It’s not that she ruled against me. She didn’t let me even finish my argument. She mocked me and chided me, so much so my client thought it was rigged,” Hafter said.

Hafter said Clark County voters deserve better.

“When you’re advocating for a client you deserve some respect even if the judge doesn’t agree with you. I feel it is inappropriate to mock, ridicule, or summarily dismiss litigants just because you may not like them or not like their attorney,” Hafter said.

Hafter, a graduate of Case Western Reserve University school of law in Cleveland, was admitted to the State Bar in 2005, but has practiced law since 2001, when he was admitted to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars.

For his part, Gale didn’t get into the issues between Hafter and Johnson.

Gale said he had the “most varied experience” of his opponents.

Gale, an accountant, said as a judge he’d have “the judicial temperament” to handle any case brought before him because of his experience in business and real estate litigation, probate and trust litigation, personal injury law, criminal law, family law, as well as work in tax, gaming and appellate law.

A perennial judicial candidate, Gale is a graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar in 1988.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe.

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