By FRED WEINBERG Publisher
By FRED WEINBERG
The election of Judge Elizabeth Halverson and subsequent contortions of the local judiciary trying to expel her like a bad kidney transplant has provided us a kind of comic relief.
Unfortunately, it obscures the truth about Judges which is that most people become Judges—at the local and state level—because they need the kind of full-time employment they cannot get as lawyers.
The pay is reasonable, the pension is wonderful and, frankly, the work is not very taxing.
It’s perfect for someone who could never really make it as a lawyer.
All of which doesn’t inspire a whole lot of respect from the very people they judge.
I suspect that Halverson’s election was a less than subtle message from the voters.
Is Halverson incompetent?
But what about the rest of them?
As a group, Clark County’s jurists are not a particularly distinguished crew. They tend not to be efficient, they tend to be arrogant and they tend to think of themselves as being above the very law that they are supposed to apply.
And the recent soap opera surrounding Halverson has given new life to the pundits who want to have Judges selected instead of elected.
The problem with the current proposal which is to have the Governor select Judges and then have them stand for retention at an election is that won’t even come close to taking politics out of the mix.
At least if a Judge has to run for election against someone else, they have to tell the voters why they think they ought to be elected.
True, it may be an unseemly process, but at least you get to see them in action before you have to stand in front of them and hear those magic words, "will the defendant please rise."
If you think that having a Governor select a Judge is taking politics out of the process, you have never sat in on some of the meetings I have.
Governors are political animals. They view almost everything first through the lens of what any particular action does for them and then, maybe, what good it might do the taxpayers.
So, unless you are prepared to go through what we now go through at the Federal level every time a Federal Judge needs to be appointed, appointing Judges is a bad idea.
In fact, we believe that it might not be a bad idea to term limit Judges.
There are way too many people who have served for so long at the Clark County Courthouse that very few of them, if any, are blushing at their Chief Judge getting her hand slapped by the Nevada Supreme Court for trying to shove Halverson around.
It is just business as usual.
Another truth about Judges is that until one gets on the bench—no matter how they get there—you never know how good or bad they may be.
The worst lawyer may turn into a very conscientious Judge while the hot shot Denny Cranes of the world may make awful Judges because their outsized egos will get in the way of applying an even hand.
The truth is that being a Judge is not rocket science.
Neither is electing one.
But it is important to remember that our society is based largely on voluntary compliance with the law.
You cannot put a policeman on every corner and we depend on people’s respect for the law to get them to observe it much of the time.
We have become unusually slovenly in our selection of Judges in Clark County.
And if you cannot have much respect for the system, why would you reasonably expect people to voluntarily comply with the law?
Much more of the current soap opera and it won’t matter how a Judge gets in office.
They’ll get the respect they deserve, which is to say, not much.