LV judge files federal civil rights suit against Nevada Judicial Commission

Tobiasson alleges regulators doing bidding of Lombardo, Wolfson

Wolfson and Lombardo have been mentioned frequently throughout the course of investigations, hearings, claims and counter-claims involving the JDC and Tobiasson. The DA and the sheriff have continuously declined to comment. (Images: Tobiasson official court photo: Lombardo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Wolfson from DA Office Facebook page).

The commission that disciplines judges in Nevada conspired to ruin the career and reputation of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress Tobiasson in an effort to retaliate against her for publicly criticizing elected officials, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Tobiasson Friday.

The complaint accuses the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission of attempting to stifle Tobiasson at the behest of Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and District Attorney Steve Wolfson, after the judge went public with allegations that police ignored information she provided about youth sex trafficking after an alleged pimp attempted to recruit her daughter into the sex trade. 

“In August 2017, Plaintiff was introduced to FBI Agent Kevin White who was involved in an ongoing FBI investigation into Metro’s Vice Unit that began in 2014,” the lawsuit says of the federal probe into the Vice Unit, police and pimps. The probe resulted in just one plea bargain. No police or former officers were charged.  

“Agent White disclosed to Plaintiff that multiple vice detectives engaged in sexual relationships with the witnesses in the Ocean Fleming case and influenced their testimony in that case and other cases,” the complaint says. “He also advised Plaintiff that detectives were taking money from certain pimps which allowed those pimps to operate and that the detectives did not go after them and would instead go after and prosecute their competition.”

The suit says White “confirmed Judge Tobiasson’s fears regarding certain Metro vice detectives and explained why the information Plaintiff provided was ignored and disregarded by the detectives.”

Tobiasson’s complaint alleges Wolfson and Lombardo attempted to retaliate against her by having her removed from hearing criminal cases after she spoke publicly about alleged police corruption in a televised interview on KLAS-TV.  

“Based on information and belief, D.A. Wolfson and Sheriff Lombardo indicated to Judge (Joe) Bonaventure that they wanted to handle this quietly and without going through formal proceedings or public proceedings,” the suit says. “It was a way to keep their retaliation and intimidation quiet. However, they advised Judge Bonaventure that if Plaintiff was not removed, they would file complaints with the NCJD.”

“Shortly after Judge Bonaventure refused to be pressured into reassigning Plaintiff, regardless of the threat of a complaint against Plaintiff if she were not removed from criminal cases, (Judicial Discipline Commission) Director (Paul) Deyhle, swore a Complaint against Judge Tobiasson as a result of her criticisms of government agencies.

The suit alleges the commission’s members and staff deprived Tobiasson of freedom of speech, due process and equal protection. It also claims gender discrimination.  

Tobiasson says the JDC engaged in forum shopping when it rejected the findings of its first investigator who wrote in his report she “did nothing more than inform the police of the information she had learned about the suspected prostitution ring and did not use her position on the bench to influence LVMPD detectives.”

After that initial finding “…Director Deyhle, who seemingly operates the NCJD as his own personal fiefdom, decided he did not like the outcome and incurred additional expenses and costs by appointing a second investigator from the same office to re-investigate,” the complaint alleges.  

Deyle did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The JDC has several disciplinary actions against Tobiasson pending, alleging she used her position as a judge to reach out to police.

“A mother asking, and then insisting that police take action against criminals is not only consistent with the judicial canons, it is in keeping with the standards of this community for citizens to report crimes and hold the police department to the appropriate standard to make sure they are investigating crimes,” the suit says. ”The sex traffickers certainly are not entitled to the extra protection they have received by chilling a judge’s ability to report a crime.”

Wolfson and Lombardo have been mentioned frequently throughout the course of investigations, hearings, claims and counter-claims involving the JDC and Tobiasson. The DA and the sheriff have continuously declined to comment.

Dana Gentry
Senior Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.