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DISTRICT COURT FAMILY JUDGE DEPARTMENT S

Rebecca Wallace has some strong opinions about how she would handle custody cases if she is elected to Department S, a newly created seat in Family Court.

For example, Wallace said she would never order joint physical custody in a contested case.

“It’s not good for the children when the parents fight all the time,” she said.

And Wallace said she would not send cases to psychologists for custody evaluations.

“That’s time-consuming and expensive,” she said. “And they’re just a waste.”

If elected, Wallace said, she would aim to complete all custody cases within six months.

Wallace’s opponent, Vincent Ochoa, said he is baffled by her stance on joint custody. He called it the “strangest thing” he has ever heard.

“The statutes and the Supreme Court cases would like us to start with joint custody,” he said, “The best parent for a child is both parents.”

Wallace said she formulated her ideas while practicing family law in Henderson for the past 18 years. She said she has concentrated on custody matters.

Ochoa and Wallace made failed bids for separate Family Court seats in 2008.

In this year’s primary, the pair emerged from a field of seven candidates. Ochoa collected 27 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan race; Wallace 19 percent.

Wallace argued that Ochoa lacks her depth of experience in family law. She described his Family Court experience as “minimal.”

“Those of us in the bar consider it dabbling,” she said.

Ochoa brushed Wallace’s comments off as “campaign talk.” He said he appears in Family Court every day and has spent his career specializing in family law.

The candidate said voters should compare his 30 years of experience with Wallace’s 18 years.

Ochoa also pointed out that the Commission on Judicial Selection thoroughly reviewed his qualifications before selecting him last year as a finalist for two open seats in Family Court.

“I don’t understand why the people of Clark County didn’t elect this guy,” Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty, chairman of the selection commission, said at the time. “I just think he’s terrific.”

Gov. Jim Gibbons did not appoint Ochoa for either seat.

Ochoa said the majority of litigants in Family Court are not represented by lawyers, and he would like to create a specialty court to deal with their cases.

The candidate, who is fluent in Spanish, received his law degree in 1978 from the University of Notre Dame and was admitted to practice law in Nevada in 1979.

He has experience as an alternate municipal judge for North Las Vegas, an alternate hearing master for juvenile and truancy courts, and an alternate domestic violence commissioner.

He also has served as an arbitrator for District Court.

Wallace received her law degree in 1992 from the University of Oklahoma and was admitted to practice in Nevada the same year.

She has been a foster parent and has experience as an alternate domestic violence commissioner.

The winner of the Department S race initially will serve for four years.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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