Family Court encounters can be emotionally-charged, contentious, and expensive. They also have the ability to change the course of lives, especially for children. Yet, the people who sit on the Family Court bench are largely unknown to the public. This year, six new seats are up for grabs and four judges are retiring.
The Current is giving voters a snapshot of candidates in eleven Clark County Family Court primary races along with links to candidate websites for those seeking more information.
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Nathan was a Clark County Family Court judge from 2010 through 2014 but lost re-election.
She’s raised $2,142 and spent it all.
Nathan is challenging Family Court judge William Voy, who has a 41.46 percent error rate, according to the website.
Voy has been on the Family Court bench since his appointment in 1998. He was first elected later that year and has been re-elected three times.
He has raised $32,229 and has $20,341 on hand.
Cheryl Wingate, the third candidate in the race, is Voy’s sister-in-law who entered the fray hours after Nathan filed, requiring the need for a primary battle.
Voy says he was informed by his wife that her sister was going to file.
Nathan says she had no intention of running but was asked “by a number of attorneys” on the day before filing closed to run against Voy.
Voy says he thinks Nathan knew that he had considered retiring if he drew an opponent and was counting on him to withdraw from the race and hoping she would be appointed to the seat.
Nathan admits she called the Court Administrator to inquire what would happen if she were the only candidate in the race.
“We were friends at the time,” she says.
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Soonee “Sunny” Bailey moved to Las Vegas to take advantage of a program for autistic children for her daughter. She took a job in 2003 with the Clark County Public Defender as a law clerk and passed the bar exam the next year. She is currently in private practice and has served as a hearing master in District Court, according to her website.
Bailey has raised $63,061 and has $26,519 in the bank.
Family and business law attorney Yvette Chevalier Lopez says she’s been in Las Vegas since 1981 and has held a variety of positions. Her contribution and expense report says she’s raised $27,165 and has more than $70,000 listed for in-kind contributions and commitments.
Michelle Tobler is an attorney who has served as an administrative hearing officer. She has raised no money and has spent $518, according to her contribution and expense report filed with the Secretary of State.
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Dedree “Dee” Butler began her legal career practicing family law and insurance defense, according to her website. She’s been a Clark County public defender for the last ten years, including two with the juvenile delinquency unit in Family Court. She is currently team chief of the Domestic Violence Unit. She’s raised $8,600 and has $1,086 on hand.
Judge Rena G. Hughes has a 54.17 percent error rate from Our Nevada Judges. She is appealing the discipline imposed by the Nevada Judicial Commission for violating a mother’s due process rights in holding her in contempt and modifying child custody. The Commission issued a public reprimand and ordered Hughes to enroll in a course entitled “Managing Challenging Family Law Cases” within a year.
She’s raised $8,000 and has $3,711 remaining.
Scott MacDonald’s website says he spent three years in the Clark County District Attorney’s Office prosecuting juvenile crime and more than 30 years in private practice in the areas of divorce, custody, guardianship, financial reorganization and estate planning.
He’s raised $42,103 and has $22,448 on hand.
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Lynn Hughes has been an attorney in Las Vegas for 23 years, according to his website. His practice is limited to family law, guardianship, probates, and estates. He’s also been a pro-tem judge for 18 years. Hughes has raised $532 and spent it all.
Robert Kurth says he has 28 years of experience as a lawyer. He’s been an arbitrator and an alternate child support hearing master, according to his website.
Kurth reports raising $4,000 and has $250 left.
Amy Mastin is a hearing master who presides over Clark County’s civil Domestic Violence Court. She previously worked in the juvenile division of Clark County District Attorney’s Office and has been in private practice, where she “focused exclusively on Family Law.”
Mastin has raised $5,695 and has $2,135 on hand.
Mandy McKellar says on her website that she’s been practicing for more than 13 years and has devoted her practice exclusively to family law, including a “voluminous amount of divorce and custody cases.”
McKellar reports raising $7,308 and has $4,125 on hand.
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Sara Dayani says she’s worked in family court since 2008 on divorce, custody, annulment, adoptions and terminations of parental rights. She’s a native Las Vegan and graduate of Boyd Law School.
Dayani has raised $16,100 and has $1,040 on hand.
Fred Page is a family law attorney with more than 17 years of experience in litigation, according to his firm’s website. The political newcomer has raised $150 and has spent all of it.
Mary Perry passed the Nevada bar in 2001, according to her website. Her focus is on domestic and family law but she also has experience with personal injury and criminal cases.
Perry has raised $27,550 and has $5,419 remaining.
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Regina “Gina” McConnell has been practicing since 2003 and exclusively in family law since 2007. Her website notes the incumbent, Judge Vincent Ochoa, has received “mediocre marks” on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s judicial survey.
McConnell reports raising $5,700 and has $4,409 on hand.
Ochoa, who has been elected twice to the seat, has been reversed on appeal 41.67 percent of the time in 54 cases, according to Our Nevada Judges. Ochoa began more than three decades of private practice in 1979, according to his website.
Ochoa has raised $71,170 and has $22,952 on hand.
Lisa Szyc says on her website that she’s been practicing law in Nevada for more than a decade and believes she has “the right demeanor” to serve in Family Court.
Szyc reports raising no money, spending $1,195, and having $60 on hand.
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Nadin Cutter is a graduate of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and gained court experience as a legal clerk for Judge Susan Johnson, according to her website.
Cutter has raised $64,231 and has $34,536 in the bank.
Gemma “Gem” Nazareno-Edquilang has been an attorney for two decades, according to her website, practicing in wills and trust litigation, immigration, personal injury, and family law. She has served as a pro tem judge in Las Vegas Justice Court.
Nazareno-Edquilang reports raising $5,029 and has $659 on hand.
Jason Stoffel says he’s served Clark County for 16 years as a private attorney, a pro tem judge, and president of the Clark County Bar Association. He ran unsuccessfully for Family Court in 2014.
Stoffel has raised $27,105 and has $8,786 remaining.
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Attorney Marilyn Caston has experience in private practice and says she donates time representing children through the Legal Aid Center of Nevada.
She says it takes “a high level of psychological sophistication” that can’t be learned in a book to navigate “the subtle art of co-parenting in high conflict situations.”
Caston has raised $7,813 and has $528 remaining.
Former Judge William Gonzalez was appointed to the Family Court bench in 2009 by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons. He was elected in 2010, lost his bid for re-election in 2014 and is seeking a newly-created seat.
Gonzalez, who was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 1997, has an error rate of 36.36 percent out of 48 cases appealed, according to Our Nevada Judges.
Gonzalez has raised $31,775 and has $4,254 on hand.
Dawn Throne says she’s represented clients “in all areas of Family Law” for 23 years and is one of 48 Nevada attorneys certified as a Family Law specialist. She’s also served as a pro tem hearing master on matters involving protective orders.
Throne has raised $65,527 and has $40,057 in the bank.
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Craig G. Bourke says he’s a 34-year resident of Las Vegas and a graduate of Boyd Law who has practiced Family Law in Southern Nevada for 16 years.
Bourke has raised no money, spent $3,481, and reports $50 on hand.
Jack Fleeman is a graduate of Boyd Law School and is certified in Nevada as a Family Law specialist. He says he’s helped thousands of clients in his private practice and volunteers his time to the Children’s Attorney Project, representing the interests of foster children.
Fleeman has raised $21,880 and has $2,466 on hand.
Margaret Pickard serves as a Hearing Master in Family Court on cases of child abuse and neglect. She also oversees the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court program, according to her website. She’s also worked as a mediator and parenting coordinator, where she worked to resolve custody conflicts.
Pickard has raised $44,550 and has $24,119 in the bank.
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Maricar “Rica” Andrade is a graduate of Boyd Law and was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 2007. She’s been in private practice for more than a decade and has served as a Hearing Master pro tem in Family Court since 2014. She’s also founded a non-profit dedicated to combating domestic violence, according to her website.
Andrade has raised $12,887 and has $7,137 on hand.
Stephanie Charter has been an attorney for almost 30 years, first in California and in Nevada since 1994. A pro bono case for the Children’s Attorneys Project led to the “realization that my passion is truly in child welfare,” she says on her website. She’s also prosecuted child welfare cases.
Charter has raised $37,400 and has $686 remaining.
Kari Molnar says she’s been practicing family law for 13 years in Las Vegas. She’s been appointed to represent indigents charged with abuse and neglect and has been a Truancy Diversion Court judge for the Clark County School District.
Molnar reports raising no money and spending $10,918.
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Randall Forman is a graduate of Boyd Law School. He’s worked in private practice and most recently as the staff attorney for Clark County Family Court, according to his website.
Forman reports raising $9,476 and has $2,069 remaining.
This is Michele “Shell” Mercer’s fourth bid for a seat on the Family Court bench. Her prior efforts have ended in the primary election. Mercer is a family law attorney with two decades of experience and has served as a Hearing Master in Family Court.
Mercer has raised $1,781 and spent it all.
Romeo Perez received his law license in 1998. He says his family law practice has evolved with his clients, leading him to also practice mortgage mediation, criminal, personal injury and traffic law. He says on his website that “understanding people is what makes a good family court judge.”
Perez, who ran unsuccessfully for Family Court in 2014, has raised $22,767 and has $6,597 remaining.
Kevin Speed has been a Clark County public defender for 16 years, according to his website. He’s also a Truancy Diversion Program Judge in Family Court. Speed says he briefly practiced on his own before joining the Public Defender, where he has served in the Sexual Assault Defense specialty unit since 2008.
Speed has raised $10,188 and has $5,735 in the bank.