Judge McGee to Remain on Bench

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A Washoe County family drug court judge arrested on suspicion of drunken driving will remain on the bench but under close scrutiny, the district's chief judge said Monday.

Charles McGee's arrest came two months after he was released from an extended stay at an alcohol rehabilitation center in Southern California. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Reno Justice Court on Dec. 23.

Under state law, judges convicted of misdemeanors can still serve.

McGee, 58, spent Monday at the Betty Ford Center where he underwent evaluations, said Washoe District Court Chief Judge James Hardesty.

Depending on the results, McGee could return to work this week or be gone "for some time," Hardesty told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"I've explained to Judge McGee my overriding concern as chief judge is the integrity of the court and the judges who serve here," Hardesty said.

"I have requested and he agreed to provide me with the appropriate evaluations, which will provide assurances that he is fit to meet his duties and responsibilities as a judge," he said.

Hardesty declined to elaborate on the sort of evaluations McGee must submit.

"If I have reservations about whether the cases are being dealt with in an appropriate manner, I can reassign the workload," Hardesty said.

Hardesty said he did not discuss the drunken driving charge when he met with McGee on Friday and Saturday to review his position. They also did not discuss whether McGee should step down from his post at the drug court.

"That's a decision he must make," Hardesty said.

"I'm in no position to discipline Judge McGee. That is a matter that must be decided through the Judicial Discipline Commission."

Dave Sarnowski, the commissions' executive director, said the law does not require a judge convicted of a misdemeanor to step down.

"It would still have to be done through a removal process," he said. He declined to comment on whether the commission is investigating McGee's case.

McGee was booked into Washoe County Jail after being stopped Dec. 9 by a Washoe County sheriff's deputy for failing to maintain a lane while driving on Fourth Street.

Hardesty called McGee and extraordinary judge and man.

"Those who are familiar with this addiction will tell you that when sober, alcoholics perform at their capabilities," he said. "He has been and continues to be an asset to this bench."

"I don't know whether his addiction is something that can be overcome," he added. "Only he can tell us that."