The race for Justice of the Peace Department 3 pits a longtime incumbent damaged by a recent legal problem against a political newcomer who says the incumbent is unfit to hold public office.
Incumbent Tony Abbatangelo, who has been a judge for 17 years, is challenged by Janiece Marshall, who has been practicing law in Nevada for nearly 18 years, with cases ranging from federal bankruptcy to District Court.
The June primary was Marshall’s first venture into politics. She secured more than 30,500 votes. But Abbatangelo, a mainstay on election ballots, came in first in the three-candidate race with more than 38,500 votes.
Marshall said Abbatangelo does not deserve to be a judge.
Abbatangelo pleaded no contest last year to one count of misdemeanor battery domestic violence. He was ordered to perform community service and attend domestic violence counseling for six months.
Marshall said Abbatangelo’s past precludes him from being fair with victims of domestic violence who appear in his court.
“It raises questions about his ability to be an impartial, independent judge,” Marshall said.
Abbatangelo said Marshall is just doing more of the same of what she did in the primary: slinging mud.
“I’m not running a negative campaign,” Abbatangelo said. “I’m not talking about Janiece Marshall doing this or that. I’m touting my skills and abilities.”
Abbatangelo said his experience on the bench places him leap-years ahead of Marshall.
“I’m definitely a better judge after 17 years than when I first started off,” he said.
Abbatangelo recently presided over the Clark County coroner’s inquest into the police shooting of Erik Scott at a Summerlin Costco.
Abbatangelo’s legal problem might have caused his lower ratings in the 2010 Judicial Performance Evaluation, in which judges and justices are rated by lawyers. Abbatangelo’s retention rating dropped in 2010 to 71 percent, meaning that is the percentage of lawyers who would like to see him stay in office.
Some lawyers specifically mentioned Abbatangelo’s domestic violence conviction as a reason he should not be retained. In 2008, Abbatangelo was rated at 90 percent.
In other matters, Marshall said the biggest issue plaguing the court is its inefficiencies, specifically the length of time it takes some witnesses to be called to testify. Marshall said court hours should be expanded to ease pressure on the overloaded system.
Marshall said judges also need to be more decisive.
“I want a judge to make a decision,” Marshall said. “I filed a motion for a reason. You’ll get a lot of times when a judge will leave it to a jury to decide.”
Abbatangelo said the courts are efficient, but should still seek ways to be more efficient.
Abbatangelo said, if re-elected, he would continue to give the job his all.
“I work hard at what I do,” Abbatangelo said. “I’m always trying to improve.”
According to campaign finance reports, Abbatangelo holds a decisive edge in fundraising, with more than $120,000 collected. Marshall has raised more than $40,000.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.2010 GENERAL ELECTION VOTER GUIDE
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE DUTIES
Justices of the peace are responsible for setting bail and handling preliminary hearings and initial arraignments for felony cases before the cases proceed to District Court. Justices also oversee misdemeanor and small-claims civil cases to their completion. Justices of the peace in Las Vegas serve six-year terms and are paid $153,449 a year. Justices in Searchlight serve six-year terms and are paid $61,380 a year. The judgeships are nonpartisan offices.