Trials & Litigation
Judge violated ethics rules in relationship with prosecutor, commission rules
By Martha Neil
Dec 30, 2013, 06:15 pm CST
A suspended Nevada family court judge violated multiple legal ethics rules by having a “close social and personal relationship” with a prosecutor in his courtroom while he was still on the bench.
But counts claiming that Judge Steven Jones retaliated against two deputy district attorneys who helped expose his relationship with their then-colleague, Lisa Willardson, were not proven by clear and convincing evidence, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline held in a Christmas Eve written opinion (PDF).
Willardson was found dead two days after the opinion was released, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Jones’ attorney says that the judge discovered her body upon returning from a three-day trip with his children.
The commission found that Jones violated legal ethics rules by interfering with the district attorney’s efforts to remove Willardson from her position in a unit that tried cases in his courtroom and using his judicial office to help Willardson respond to a legal ethics complaint filed against her by the State Bar of Nevada, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Many people feel that Judge Jones is made of Teflon and that he can do whatever he wants,” former District Attorney David Roger told the newspaper. “Now they know differently.”
Defense attorney James J. Jimmerson said he and Jones were disappointed by the decision. “We do respect that there was a meaningful effort on the part of the commission to evaluate the evidence and apply it to the charges,” he said. “Their dismissal of charges relating to his right to recuse individuals with whom he had a bias or prejudice is evidence of this fact.”
A penalty hearing for Jones in the legal ethics case is scheduled in January. He was suspended from the bench in November 2012 following a federal fraud indictment.
ABAJournal.com: “Judge Blasts Crotch Photo Snapped by Whistle-Blower Prosecutors; DA Files Ethics Complaint”
ABAJournal.com: “Ethics trial begins for judge accused of hearing cases while romantically involved with prosecutor”
Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Judge’s romantic interest found dead”
Updated on Dec. 31 to add details about Ms. Willardson’s death.