Legal Ethics

Observers Agog Over Nev. Judge Saga

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Halfway into her first year on the bench, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Halverson is one of the best-known jurists in Nevada. Although a law school classmate praises her as an attorney capable of Harvard Law Review-quality work, it isn’t her legal intellect that’s attracting all the attention. Instead, Halverson is notorious for alleged misbehavior that has alienated her staff and prompted the chief judge of the Eighth Judicial District Court to ban her from her Las Vegas courtroom.

Halverson, on her side, depicts Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle as “an imperious, overreaching and abusive person, who over several years has leveled a series of personal and professional attacks,” writes Terry Carter in the ABA Journal. The two women have been at odds since Halverson reportedly clerked for Hardcastle, was fired and ran against Hardcastle’s husband for a seat on the family court bench.

Hardcastle barred Halverson on May 15 from continuing to work at the court, following a series of complaints from individuals including staff members, who said she treated them like servants. The complaints, which are detailed in the magazine story, included claims that Halverson taunted lawyers about not having contributed to her campaign and talked to criminal juries during deliberations, according to court documents. Halverson responded to the court ban by filing an unusual writ of quo warranto against Hard­castle, contending that the chief judge had acted illegally and exceeded her authority. “A few days later, the Nevada Supreme Court granted a temporary stay and Halverson re­turned,” Carter writes. noted early last month that Halverson was apparently under investigation by a judicial conduct commission, and the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline began holding a hearing on Halverson’s conduct last week, reports the Las Vegas Sun. Halverson’s lawsuit against Hardcastle, contending that the chief judge overstepped her authority by barring the rookie judge from the courthouse, is still pending in the Nevada Supreme Court, the newspaper notes. It is Halverson v. Hardcastle, No. 49453.

Not only members of the legal profession but ordinary citizens are now following the situation with avid interest, waiting to see what the next chapter will be in the ongoing real-life judicial soap opera. “My high school students have never read the newspaper with such genuine excitement before,” writes a high school teacher in a letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We’re all anxiously awaiting the next episode in this sordid saga. … So please, let Judge Halverson stay on the bench, just a little bit longer.”

See also: Nev. Judge Suspended, Poses ‘Substantial Threat,’ Commission Finds.

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