Recall Movement of Washoe Judge Afoot

By  | 

A group made up primarily of divorced fathers unhappy with child support and custody rulings is preparing a petition to try to recall a Washoe County judge recently jailed for drunken driving.

Judge Charles McGee, a family and drug court judge, was recently convicted of drunken driving and served two days in jail.

Nevadans for Equal Parenting, an organization that wants to change Nevada's child support and custody laws, is launching the effort to obtain signatures for a recall election.

"Our main argument for the recall is the fact, number one, that the type of court he adjudicates demands that he be above reproach," David Richards, a Sparks resident who is president of the group, told the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Richards founded the 80-member organization that meets once a month at the Sparks Public Library. He said family court judges are overloaded with cases so they often rush their work to meet deadlines. He suggested McGee's heavy caseload may have contributed to his drinking.

"By his admission, it got to him," Richards said Thursday. "He himself stated he tended to take cases home with him."

McGee, 53, a district judge since 1984 and founder of the county's family drug court, was arrested Dec. 9 after being stopped for failure to maintain a lane.

"I think I still can serve," he told the Tribune on Thursday.

The judge said he's doing all he can to combat his alcohol addiction. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five to seven times a week. He sees a psychiatrist every Monday, a counselor every Thursday and his AA "sponsor" every Saturday.

"I take a Breathalyzer every morning" before taking to the bench, McGee said.

He questioned why a group of divorced and separated fathers would go after him, when he was the one who founded a mediation program and a custody evaluation program designed to prevent children from being used as pawns by warring parents.

"I probably have the reputation of being the judge who is most protective of fathers who are the subject of (temporary protection orders)," McGee said.

In order to bring about a recall vote, Nevadans for Equal Parenting would have only 90 days to collect signatures of 25 percent of Washoe County voters registered in the last general election - some 25,000 to 30,00 signatures, Richards said.

The group doesn't have any funding, but is working on raising money, he said.

Richards, 39, formed Nevadans for Equal Parenting in February 2003 after going through a bitter separation from his girlfriend.

Richards, a truck driver, was denied joint custody of his 4-year-old daughter and is still battling his ex in court. Judge McGee has handled the case.

The organization wants the state's laws rewritten so there's joint custody between parents.

"The way it works now, one parent is almost always the noncustodial parent," Richards said. "There should be a presumption of joint custody as a starting point."