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Debate Held on Ballot Measure to Change How Nevada Judges are Chosen

The chief justice of Texas’ Supreme Court said at a forum last week that he supported a ballot measure before Nevada voters to change the way judges are chosen. A legal scholar from Vanderbilt University argued against the measure at the same forum, held at the Boyd School of Law on the campus of UNLV.
Both brought unique perspectives. Texas is a state that elects its judges who collect campaign donations from those who may appear before them creating bright-line conflicts-of-interest.
Vanderbilt’s Brian T. Fitzpatrick is from Tennessee, a state that uses “merit� selection similar to one that Nevada voters are considering. In Tennessee the merit system has come under fire for creating a system of cronyism and giving voters too little say.

Changing the way Nevada chooses its judges would mean that judgeships would almost assuredly become lifetime appointments, according to Fitzgerald.
“It’s hard to lose a race when you have no opponent,� Fitzgerald said. “The retention rate is 99% if you look all across America. For us…it means that whoever the governor tells to put on the bench is going to be there for as long as they want to be there. It is basically a life tenure for the judges selected by the bar.�
Texas’ Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson argued that a merit system would be better because of the influence campaign contributions have in judicial races.
It comes down to “the money,� Jefferson said.
“We’re talking millions and millions of dollars,� Jefferson said. “From 1999-2006, the candidates in Alabama raised $9,090,388 for State Supreme Court elections. Texas was over $3,000,000.�
The merit system before voters – Nevada Ballot Question Number 1 – roughly entails three tenets.
If there is a vacancy in a Supreme or District Courts, candidates will submit their names to the Commission on Judicial Selection who will review those names based on their experience and impartiality.
The Commission then submits them for approval to the public and to the governor for appointment. This probationary appointment lasts until the next general election.
It goes on to say: “Justices and judges seeking another term would be evaluated based on their record by the newly created Commission on Judicial Performance, which would consist of the Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court and equal numbers of attorneys and non-attorneys.�
This report by the C.J.P. would be available to the public at least 6 weeks before the election for review.
The vote would be a “retention referendum� or “Yes/No� question as to whether to retain the judge.
While the current system is not perfect, Fitzgerald said, there are better approaches than this for Nevada voters.
Longer terms, public financing, appointments like the federal system and anonymous campaign contributions would help alleviate voter complacency and judicial bias, he said.
One example: “I have a friend who is a judge in another state; he gets a report from the bank on how much money is in his account,� Fitzgerald said. “He’s not allowed to know [who gave it].�
Jefferson, however, cited massive voter complacency in judicial races as a reason to allow for first-term appointments.
He described how voters tossed out an overwhelming number of good judges in 2006 because of the whims of voters.
“Was it because they were bad judges?� he asked. “Was it because they were unethical or lazy or inefficient? No, they lost because in 2006 Dallas County turned Democrat.�
The UNLV Federalist Society hosted the debate.
“While the current system isn’t perfect, the solution to improve the way we elect judges in Nevada is not to remove the public from the election process and replace it with those who supposedly know better,� Federalist Society President Jason VanMeetren said. “Instead, a better solution would be to find ways to better engage the public and inform the electorate about who they are voting for.�
Disclosure: Jason VanMeetren is married to Karri VanMeetren who is a Nevada News Bureau executive board member and director.
__
Audio Files:
Fitzpatrick worries the public will not be represented in a merit selection system, rather lawyers:
092310Fitzpatrick1 :19 the peoples views.”
Fitzpatrick argues incumbency would be a problem in merit system’s “yes/no” vote:
092310Fitzpatrick2 :20 by the bar.”
Fitzpatrick cites 99% retention rate in judicial merit votes:
092310Fitzpatrick3 :15 all across America.”
Jefferson expresses concern that popular elections do not guarantee a judge’s merit:
092310Jefferson1 :14 fair and impartial.”
Jefferson says the public does not have enough information to be informed in their vote:
092310Jefferson2 :10 an informed vote.”
Jefferson decries current political volleying for judicial positions as “illogical”:
092310Jefferson3 :21 do with merit.”

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V&T McKeen Nevada State Railroad Museum

To commemorate National Train Day the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City will operate and offer rides on May 10 aboard Virginia & Truckee Railway's McKeen motor car No. 22.

The car entered service for the V&T on May 9, 1910, and was retired in 1945. No. 22 is the only restored and operable McKeen motor car in the world. In 2012, the Secretary of the Interior granted the No. 22 National Historic Landmark status, which recognizes the McKeen motor car's significance to United States history.

Ron Wood Family Resource Center honors John Hurzel of Carson City.

Ron Wood Family Resource Center in Carson City will honor John Hurzel for his service to children, families and the community on May 17, 2014 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Governor's Mansion.

John is a long time resident of Carson City and contributes his efforts toward enhancing the lives of many through his culinary talents and selfless generosity. John offers his expertise to youth interested in the culinary arts and has been a supporter of many non-profit organizations with a healthy nutritional focus.

Carson City Fire Department was dispatched late this morning to a single-vehicle accident involving a moped rider in the 1900 block of College Parkway.

The adult female rider was said to have possibly fractured her ankle in the accident, reported to dispatch at 11:23 a.m. Carson City Sheriff's Office deputies were re-routing traffic around the scene.

No other vehicles appear to have been involved, according to deputies on the scene.

This week's Women to Women Nevada guests are Sally Zola and Brenda Silis. Both are involved in the Capital City Circles Initiative in Carson City.

This community effort is maintained to help elevate people out of poverty by creating healthy relationships that cross economic and social barriers to help establish self-reliance.

A 43-year-old Carson City man was arrested Thursday in the 1000 block of Roop Street on a gross misdemeanor charge of possessing a dangerous weapon and four lessor charges including two warrants for failure to appear in court.

According to the Carson City Sheriff's Office arrest report, deputies responded to the Roop location to assist Sgt. Scott McDaniel on a traffic stop, where the man was stopped on suspicion of driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Christie Kranjcec, a fourth grade teacher at Dayton Elementary School, has won a $2,500 grant through Farmers Insurance's "Thank a Million Teachers" program, a national initiative that invites America to offer thanks to teachers, present and past, who have made a difference in their lives.  

Tree thinning and brush removal efforts as part of the Healthy Forest Restoration Project will resume in around South Lake Tahoe beginning Monday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The project will thin trees and brush on National Forest System land to improve forest health and reduce the risk of severe wildfire on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Nevada’s unemployment rate remained at a seasonally-adjusted 8.5 percent for March, the same as February, and down from 10.2 percent year-over-year, according to figures released Friday from the state's Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

March figure equates to 117,000 Nevadans out of work. Metro area unemployment rates for Carson City, Reno and Las Vegas will be available next week.

The National Endowment for the Arts will award $768,500 in grants to the Nevada Arts Council, the Western Folklife Center, the Churchill Arts Council and the Nevada Ballet Theater as part of the second half of NEA’s fiscal year 2014 funding, Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced Thursday.

The NAC was awarded $663,500 for the third year of its Partnership Agreement Grant, which supports the agency’s programs, outreach activities and various grant categories.

City government’s sales-tax increase went through Carson City’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday like a not-so-instant replay called same song, second verse.

Get an early start on Easter egg hunting Friday when Skyline Estates Senior Living hosts its Easter egg hunt for all ages at 2 p.m. Organizers invite children, parents, and grandchildren to attend. Skyline Estates Senior Living is located at 2861 Mountain St., in Carson City.

Restaurant inspections are made weekly by the Carson City Health and Human Services Environmental Health Division. 
Inspections through April 16, 2014 include several bars and lounges, convenience stores, restaurants and fast food restaurants.

See report below.

Lyon County Manager Jeff Page presented a State of the County report to the Lyon County Board of Commissioners at its Thursday meeting. Public safety tops the list of where 2014 general fund money is being spent, making up 42 percent, followed by general government expenditures, Lyon County judicial courts, culture and recreation and public works.

Economic development authorities, nonprofits and towns in rural Nevada that want to support rural business or create a revolving loan fund for business may now apply for USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant. An estimated $82,060 is available. Applications are due by June 30, 2014.

The purpose of the RBEG is to support the creation and growth of sustainable rural business opportunities and jobs. Eligible entities are public bodies, private nonprofit corporations, rural development authorities, and federally recognized tribes. Individual businesses are not eligible.

We just recently helped a client close down and liquidate a corporation that was no longer wanted or needed. Since the stockholder had invested in the corporation stock when it was formed and it had suffered losses, the stock qualified for a special tax benefit as Section 1244 stock.

The Carson City Board of Supervisors meet today in the Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center. The meeting began at 8:30 a.m. Go here for the agenda and here to watch it live.

A 5.4 pound bear cub is the newest guest at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. The female, about 10 weeks old, was dropped off at the front door of the Bear League without a note or any word on where the bear came from or where her mother may be.

The cub is just learning to walk, but according to LTWC, she doesn't quite have the hang of it. They say her overall condition is good and she is eating pretty well, even with being so young.

A 22-year-old Carson City man was booked into the Carson City Jail on Wednesday, 4:45 p.m. on a misdemeanor warrant charge of violation of a suspended sentence. The warrant was issued Jan. 23, 2013 out of Carson City Justice Court for failure to appear. Bail: $3,000.

In other arrests: A Carson City woman was arrested Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. in the 1700 block of North Curry Street on a contempt of court warrant charge, issued out of Carson City Justice Court.

When The Greenhouse Project opened on the Carson High School campus in 2011, 20 students participated in the programs offered.

After a quick general meeting, the last of the pre-primary Candidate Forums will be held April 24, 6:30 p.m. at Silver State Charter High School, 788 Fairview Drive in Carson City. This month's forum will consist of: