Nevada Judge Responds To Judicial Panel Complaint

Suspended Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Halverson on Tuesday challenged a 14-count complaint from the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission accusing her of improper conduct, sexual harassment and sleeping on the bench.

In a formal response to the complaint, attorneys for Halverson said the accusations should be dismissed because she has "absolute immunity by virtue of her elected position as a Nevada district court judge."

The attorneys also said Halverson is entitled to protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and some of the counts against her violate the judge's federal rights "to be free from discrimination based upon an accepted qualifying disability."

Lawyers Dominic Gentile, John Arrascada and William Gamage also said the charges don't include any "allegations of severity or pervasiveness," or show any "willful or persistent failure to perform the duties of office, or habitual intemperance."

The attorneys also said the discipline panel was going beyond its jurisdiction with its complaint, which alleged, among other things, that Halverson fell asleep during three trials early last year.

The complaint also says the judge improperly talked with jurors impaneled to decide a case she was handling, sexually harassed a bailiff and harassed other employees, and improperly hired her own security guards.

The complaint also states that Halverson refused to communicate, except through a lawyer, with Chief Clark County District Judge Kathy Hardcastle about various administrative court functions.

Halverson's suspension, which began in mid-2007, was upheld in November by the state Supreme Court pending the discipline panel's decision on whether she's fit to be a judge.

She was elected in 2006 to the court.

Halverson's lawyers have said the judge continues to draw her $130,000 yearly salary, and have maintained that concerns about her
behavior ended after she changed her initial staff.

They also said she slept on the bench only once and that was because she was taking a drug to treat a medical problem.