Judge says resignation not because of ‘any wrongdoing’

By: - April 30, 2021 2:25 pm

Melanie Tobiasson testifying in a Judicial Disciplinary Commission hearing in December 2019. (Nevada Current file photo)

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson says she’s resigning her position on the bench next week to regain control of her life and “stop being terrorized” by the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission, which says she’s abused her position as a judge.  She has alleged the Commission engages in “public shaming.” 

The JDC, which has the unique role of bringing charges against judges and then acting as prosecutor and jury, filed a complaint against Tobiasson in 2018, weeks after she publicly alleged that Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were protecting some pimps and their prostitutes while targeting their competition. At the time, the FBI was investigating similar allegations involving Metro’s vice unit. 

Tobiasson said police ignored her tips about potentially illegal activity at a clothing store where her daughter worked. 

Just days after Tobiasson’s allegations aired on KLAS-TV in April 2018, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Sheriff Joe Lombardo secretly attempted to have Tobiasson removed from hearing criminal cases.  

Tobiasson says she’s long suspected the two elected officials initiated the JDC complaint.

“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,” says a federal lawsuit filed by Tobiasson earlier this year. “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.”

She says Wolfson and Lombardo took part in negotiations this month with the JDC and Tobisson’s attorneys regarding her pending cases. 

“My attorney called me and said Wolfson and Lombardo were interested in resolving this,” Tobiasson said, adding that no resolution was reached. “I don’t know why they were involved since they’ve claimed to have nothing to do with it.” 

Wolfson, Lombardo, and JDC officials did not immediately respond to questions regarding the alleged role of the two elected officials in the negotiations. 

Tobiasson is alleged by the JDC to have used her position as a judge to inform police of potential criminal activity, an act available to any citizen, and to have interfered in the investigation of a double murder.  

She previously faced suspension for allegedly using foul language and wearing clothing under her judicial robe that a staff member deemed inappropriate.

“I made the decision to resign rather than continue to fight the JDC for many reasons, but mostly because I need to take control of my life and stop allowing them to control it,” Tobiasson told the Current. “And I needed to give my family their lives back.”  

Tobiasson and her attorneys have argued the JDC’s complaint against the judge was riddled with errors and designed to humiliate her. It alleged Tobiasson dropped domestic violence charges against an organized crime figure, but court transcripts indicate the District Attorney, not Tobiasson, declined to pursue the case.  

Tobiasson says the allegation, which is easily proved false, is “typical of the JDC’s intentional lying” and evidence of the hubris of an agency charged with disciplining judges.  

The judge, who has been on the bench since 2009, says she’s spent more than $600,000 in legal fees combatting the JDC’s efforts to remove her. 

“I did not make the decision to resign because of any wrongdoing on my part,” Tobiasson said in an interview Friday. “I fought for so long because of the injustice of the JDC and its members. The only reason I agreed to resign is because I needed to regain control of my life.”

Tobiasson says the JDC reneged on an agreement not to post her resignation on its website until its effective date, May 7, robbing her of “the opportunity to announce the end of my professional career as a judge. I intended to write a statement this weekend and announce my resignation to the County Commission.”

A bill presented at the Nevada Legislature this session sought to change the JDC’s procedures, but Assemblyman Steve Yeager scrapped it, saying it was too nuanced to address this session. Instead, he substituted an amendment that provides for the Nevada Supreme Court to weigh in.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

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.