Hearing On Embattled Vegas Judge Wraps Up

LAS VEGAS (AP) - After two weeks of hearings and more than a year on suspension, a disciplinary panel has wrapped up its hearing on an embattled judge accused of sleeping on the bench and belittling her bailiff.

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Halverson will have to wait a few more weeks before learning her fate on judicial misconduct charges. The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline will not make a decision until it receives written closing arguments from Halverson and the special prosecutor. Both sides will have 10 working days to file their papers after they receive the transcripts of the hearings, which started Aug. 4.

Halverson, who was suspended in July 2007 and continues to collect her $130,000 annual pay, finished third in Tuesday's primary election and will not advance to the general election in November.

Her lawyer, Michael Schwartz, said his client was not given enough time to present her case. The commission gave her only Friday to present her defense while it gave the prosecution six days.

District Judge Richard Wagner, the commissioner presiding over the hearing, said Thursday that the commission would not meet beyond 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Schwartz said he had never seen a case in which the defense was
given a deadline to finish.

That wasn't the only problem for Halverson's case on Friday. About eight of her witnesses did not show up to testify at the hearing, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Halverson accused the lawyer for the Clark County courts, Jillian Prieto, of interfering with the subpoenas of courthouse employees, including bailiffs and court staffers. Schwartz said those witnesses were vital to their case.

Prieto said Halverson contacted witnesses too late.

One of the witnesses, District Judge Michelle Leavitt, rushed to the convention center from a death-penalty murder trial to testify after learning of the problem. Leavitt was still catching her breath when she sat down to testify.

The missing witness problem took a humorous turn when Halverson
called lawyer Jeff Maningo on a cell phone.

Schwartz and special prosecutor Dorothy Nash Holmes took turns
holding the cell phone to the conference room microphones and
questioning him about what he saw during a trial in which Halverson
is accused of falling asleep.

Maningo, who explained he received his subpoena the afternoon of
Aug. 4, the same day he was originally scheduled to testify, said he never saw the judge fall asleep.

During testimony earlier Friday, several employees who worked for Halverson said she was polite and never yelled at or mistreated them. Several also testified that Johnnie Jordan, Halverson's former bailiff, was a devoted employee who was happy to do whatever he could for the judge.

Jordan has said Halverson mistreated him, including forcing him to massage her feet, put on her shoes and keep her water cup filled.

Daniel Reichert, a courthouse bailiff for 24 years, said he often attended to the judges he worked for, including filling cups with water and ice and making sure their courtrooms were clean.

He said he would help a judge put on a robe or shoes if they needed help, and he said he always offered to help female judges put on their robes.

"That's how I was raised," he said.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-16-08 1528EDT

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