Friday, March 7, 2014

No Writ For Las Vegas Judge

The Nevada Supreme Court denied a writ sought by a Las Vegas family court judge to derail an ongoing investigation into a host of allegations of misconduct involving, among other things, a federal fraud investigation, sex with an extern, domestic violence and taking marijuana that had been seized as evidence.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on a recent three-month suspension of the judge last month as a result of an inappropriate relationship with a now-deceased prosecutor:

Following a week-long hearing in December, the judicial commission found that special prosecutors proved eight of 12 charges filed against Jones related to his relationship with Willardson, who still appeared before him.

Jones discovered Willardson’s body in the bathroom of her Henderson home on Dec. 26, the same day the commission’s decision on the charges was made public.

There were no signs of foul play, and the coroner is waiting for toxicology results before ruling on the cause of her death.

Commission prosecutors had accused Jones of violating rules of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct that require judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

The commission ruled prosecutors proved three counts that were tied directly to the judge’s affair with Willardson between October and December 2011.

Two of the counts alleged Jones improperly maintained the relationship while Willardson litigated child welfare cases before him and then did not disqualify himself from the cases. He issued a ruling in her favor in December, long after they had begun to date.

The other count accused Jones of interfering with Roger’s decision to remove Willardson from a child welfare unit that prosecuted cases in the judge’s courtroom.

The commission also found that prosecutors presented strong evidence to sustain three counts accusing Jones of using his judicial office to help Willardson prepare a response to a State Bar complaint against her stemming from their romantic relationship.

In this article on emails produced at the hearing, the prosecutor reportedly described the judge as "smoking hot."

In its opinion, the court held that a judge under investigation has more limited rights than after charges are brought.

The opinion in Jones v. Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline can be found at this link. (Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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