CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The Nevada Supreme Court is considering
complaints about the way a state judge in Las Vegas handles hearings about the mental competency of defendants to stand trial.
Deputy Clark County public defenders Christy Craig and Howard Brooks told justices during a Tuesday hearing that Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass blocks public defenders from challenging her decisions and won't allow psychiatric evaluations from defense doctors that oppose findings by doctors appointed by the court.
"Judge Glass will not let us talk to the docs," Craig told the justices. "She says that is the way it should be done."
Glass, the judge who will oversee the O.J. Simpson kidnapping and armed robbery case beginning Monday, handles competency court
cases twice a week at the state's busiest court in Las Vegas.
Brooks said Glass refuses to let defense attorneys read complete evaluations of court-appointed doctors, and releases one-page summaries instead.
But Deputy Clark County District Attorney James Sweetin said Glass relies on the psychiatric evaluations of court-appointed doctors to ensure neutrality. Sweetin said prosecutors also cannot see the complete evaluations.
The state high court made no immediate decision about whether Glass' approach meets state law. But most raised questions about her procedures.
Justice Jim Hardesty said Glass' method was not the one used when he was a Washoe County District Court judge in Reno. Hardesty read aloud a message that Glass sent to Brooks in which she said she would not consider their reports "period."
Sweetin said public defenders can file motions for full competency hearings before Glass, and said he appeared in some of those hearings with Craig.
Before the competency court was created, criminal defendants sometimes remained in jail for months awaiting evaluations about whether they could stand trial.
Earlier this year, Glass said the competency court reduced those waiting times dramatically.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has raised concerns about whether Glass sacrifices constitutional rights of defendants for court efficiency.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)