Judge’s comments reflect reality, say civil rights leaders 

Lombardo, police union need to be ‘more thoughtful’

By: - July 21, 2022 11:33 am

“You’re a Black man in America.  You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are,” Judge Erika Ballou said. (Court video)

Statements that District Judge Erika Ballou made from the bench about police “reflect the grim reality for African Americans in (the) United States and in Clark County,” says NAACP Las Vegas president Roxann McCoy. 

In a court video, Ballou is heard admonishing a defendant alleged to have violated his parole by assaulting a police officer. 

“You’re the one making the decisions not to walk away from cops. You’re a Black man in America.  You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are,” Judge Ballou said. “You know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are cause I know I don’t, and I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Black woman. I don’t want to be around where the cops are because I don’t know if I’m going to walk away alive or not.”

Sheriff and Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo called on Gov. Steve Sisolak to demand Ballou’s resignation, claiming her “comments and courtroom conduct demonstrate bias against law enforcement and stand in complete opposition to a fair and independent judiciary.”

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association is also calling for Ballou to resign. 

Ballou, a former public defender, was elected in 2020 after raising no money for her campaign, to the dismay of Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who appeared to reference her in a post-election interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.   

“In my opinion, in past elections, there was a greater correlation between how much effort a candidate put into the campaign and the result — a more direct relationship between efforts and results of fundraising and who won,” Wolfson said at the time, adding some “did nothing or next to nothing, compared to their opponents, and still came out on top. In my opinion, something is wrong.”

It’s not the first time Lombardo has sought to have a judge removed from the bench.  

In 2018, Lombardo and Wolfson secretly approached then-Chief Justice of the Peace John Bonaventure to have Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson removed from criminal cases because she criticized police and the DA. Tobiasson resigned in 2021. She told the Current that Wolfson and Lombardo attempted to negotiate her resignation.  

Clark County Black Caucus Chair Yvette Williams says Ballou’s comments were not disparaging to law enforcement but express the tradition in Black households “to educate and caution your children about interaction with law enforcement, and whenever possible avoid contact for fear of being profiled, accosted, harassed, or worse…” 

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, said Ballou’s statements weren’t “‘anti-police’ and reflected the candor, honesty, and authenticity that we need from judges.” 

He said Ballou’s critics “would have been more thoughtful in using this as an opportunity to collaborate and restore confidence between police and communities of color, which remain very much strained, instead of trying to have her removed from the bench.”

Ballou has not responded to a request for comment. 

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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. 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, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.