Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Queen" Judge Faces Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission

It is entirely coincidental that we have featured an unusually high volume of bizarre, even eyebrow-raising stories about American judges of late.

I assure our readers that our respect for the Bench is sincere and certainly well-justified.

Still, how could one not be taken aback by this news of an elected Las Vegas District Court Judge, now facing misconduct charges before Nevada's judicial discipline commission, as reported at CNN?:

Elizabeth Halverson is a judge. But the way courthouse staffers see it, she expects to be treated like a queen.

Judge Elizabeth Halverson will face hearings next month by a judicial discipline panel.

Her former bailiff, for example, says Halverson made him feel like a "houseboy." He says the judge -- who is obese and uses a motorized scooter to get around -- made him put her shoes on her feet, massage her back, cover her with a blanket for naps and make sure her oxygen tank was filled. He says she asked him, "Do you want to worship me from near or afar?"

Halverson also surrounded herself with her own hired guards, saying she did not trust the courthouse security force to protect her. Another time, she allegedly had her husband sworn in so that she could ask him under oath whether he had completed chores at home.

Since then, the 50-year-old Nevada district judge has been locked out of her Las Vegas courtroom, suspended from the bench and brought up on judicial-misconduct charges that include not only misusing her position and treating her staff like personal valets but also tainting juries and falling asleep on the bench.

Nevada's judicial discipline commission is preparing for a week of open hearings next month that could put an end to Halverson's career. Many lawyers are unwilling to talk publicly about the case because of the powerful figures involved, but expect the proceedings to be entertaining, to say the least.

There is much in this type of story that lends great credence to the suggestion that Canada's system of judicial appointment after consultation is overwhelmingly superior to the U.S. model that provides for certain, judicial positions by election.

Of course, to be fair, even in Canada we have had the occasional incident.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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