Nevada Follow Up: Judges Will Get a Closer Look

In June, I wrote about the wonderful job the Los Angeles Times did in highlighting shocking conduct by Nevada judges. Now comes word that the Nevada Supreme Court, reacting to the Times' award-worthy work, is going to impose greater oversight of state judges.

"The Times articles reported that southern Nevada judges had awarded millions of dollars in judgments in recent years without disclosing that some awards went to friends, business partners, former clients or people to whom the judges owed money," the Associated Press reported yesterday. So "Chief Justice Bob Rose circulated a statement Tuesday outlining new monitoring procedures that will start in November to ensure fair, impartial and reasonably prompt justice..." It's a good first step in rooting out the malfeasance that seems to have permeated the bench in Nevada. But it's not nearly enough.

None of the judges who were singled out by the Times for particularly egregious conduct are going to be punished or sanctioned for what they did. One, Joe Pavlikowski, has since retired. Another, James Brennan, gets a pass because the Chief Justice couldn't establish that "any unethical or clearly improper conduct occurred, or that the conduct reached the level requiring court action." And the third, Steven Huffaker, won't get in trouble because he was an elected judge, and not a senior judge, when he allegedly dishonored his position. The distinction between the two different types of judges, and why it is okay for an elected judge but not a senior judge to act shamelessly, is beyond me (and I bet beyond you, too). Anyway, if Nevada were truly serious about sending a message to all of its judges that they must not only be impartial but appear to be impartial state officials would go hard after Pavlikowski, Brennan and Huffaker.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 20, 2006; 12:00 PM ET
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