Bita Yeager has only been on the bench a little more than a year, but she said she has big plans for Las Vegas Justice Court.
Yeager, who was appointed to the Department 6 seat in February, said she’s looking forward to establishing a special community court aimed at curbing the number of misdemeanor repeat offenders on the Strip. The court is being funded with a $200,000 Justice Department grant she helped get. But first Yeager, a former longtime deputy public defender, must face two challengers at the polls — Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Rogan and lawyer Rebecca Kern.
“I really like the fact that I’m truly a part of the community,” Yeager said. “I’m making decisions that improve the community. It’s been very exciting.”
Rogan, who prosecutes gang cases, said he, too, has a “commitment to the community.”
His years of experience in the district attorney’s office put him in the best position to improve Justice Court without risking public safety and ignoring the rights of victims, he said.
“Given the rise in crime, I’m very concerned about the bail judgments we’re making in Justice Court,” Rogan said. “I also want to make sure our cases are heard without delay and victims are given an opportunity to be heard.”
Kern — a Las Vegas native and UNLV law school graduate who has been practicing in the field for the past 11 years — said in a Review-Journal questionnaire that she plans to be independent and an “outspoken voice for fairness and justice” on the bench.
“Far too often, we see judges issue rulings that give an unfair advantage to special interests,” she said. “We, as a community, deserve better.”
Though Yeager spent two decades in the public defender’s office, Rogan said he has handled a wider variety and larger number of cases than his two opponents.
Yeager insisted that she already has a record of improving the court system.
She said she took the lead in creating a community court in North Las Vegas, which provides counseling and employment training for young, nonviolent offenders to deter them from returning to the court system.
And now, Yeager is hoping the Las Vegas community court, set to launch next year, will have similar success for people charged with low-level misdemeanors on the Strip.
If it all goes according to plan, it will help free up the Justice Court system for more serious cases, she said.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.