Public defender, prosecutor, and civil attorney vie in three-way special election 

By: - October 6, 2022 5:58 am

From left: Jennifer Schwartz, Lindsey Moors, Adam Ganz

Judge Michael Villani’s resignation in July created an opening in Clark County Department 17, which will be filled in a three-way special election race among attorney Adam Ganz, prosecutor Lindsey Moors and public defender Jennifer Schwartz. The winning candidate must receive only a plurality, not a majority.  

Ganz, a civil litigator for 25 years who ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for a seat on District Court, seems unconcerned about the so-called “gender factor” – the notion that women garner greater support in judicial races than men. 

“If you thought that is an issue, they might likely split the women’s vote,” Ganz hypothesized about his opponents during an interview. “They also both practice in criminal law. So they’re likely going to split that vote as well. I like my chances against my two opponents.”

Moors, a prosecutor who focuses primarily on sex crimes against children, is running for office for the first time, though she unsuccessfully sought an appointment in 2021. 

“I really do believe in the judicial canons,” she said in an interview. “You need to be independent, impartial, and conduct yourself with integrity. I have no desire to legislate from the bench. There’s just no room for my views.”

Schwartz has been an attorney for 20 years, almost all as a public defender. She credits her grandparents, “among the lucky few to survive concentration camps” during the Holocaust, for her work ethic, integrity, and compassion. 

‘They had their families destroyed, their homes destroyed, their businesses destroyed, and their livelihoods destroyed,” she says. “They taught me what it’s like to live in a country where if you have bad people in power, bad things happen.”

Ganz has no experience in criminal law.  Dept. 17 currently hears both civil and criminal cases.  He expects that to change should he win.  

“I would think that considering my background that it would be a civil docket,” he said, adding there’s a “lack of civilly trained judges” and a backlog of civil cases that precedes the pandemic.  

“I think it’s important to have experience on both sides,” says Moors, a prosecutor for 11 years who says she has a small amount of experience in civil law. In 2020 she was promoted to Chief Deputy DA for the special victims unit. “A judge’s job is kind of unique in that you’re essentially going to be officiating. So I think experience is certainly relevant.” 

Moors says she thinks criminal cases move faster than civil cases, “so it’s harder to catch up.”  

Schwartz, who clerked for Judge Michael Cherry in a courtroom with a split docket, says experience in criminal law is critical for judges with a criminal calendar “because they’re dealing with liberties. I will say that I am the only person in this race who has actually practiced both civil and criminal.” 

Candidates in special elections have yet to file campaign contribution and expense reports with the state. Ganz says he expects his fundraising to be competitive with his opponents. 

On the topic of selecting judges, Ganz says he’s not sure elections are the best method but they are his personal preference. 

“I think that the fact that judges are elected and raise money and go through this process is good in the sense that we get to meet different people out there,” he says.  

Moors says she’s also unsure of the best method to select competent judges. 

“The problem with appointing is, I guess, sometimes the appointee may be out of tune with what the public wants. But then if you have voters that maybe don’t know much about judges, then if you’re just having people vote on something, does it make it democratic because we’re voting on it?” she asks.

Moors says she’s not a fan of asking people for money, but is engaging in the process. 

“As a prosecutor, I’ve had a lot of support from defense attorneys, which I think is really important if you’re respected by the people that you routinely go against,” she says.

“Fundraising is definitely not my favorite part of running a campaign,” says Schwartz, who says she enjoys campaigning and meeting people. 

‘Fancy robes, power, but no integrity’

Schwartz says during her two decades in court she’s “perpetually witnessed judges who lack integrity, lack compassion, and lack work ethic – judges who want to sit on a bench and wear a fancy robe and have power, but they don’t take the time to make sure that they do their job the right way.” 

She declined to name specific jurists. 

Unethical prosecutors, she says, are commonplace. 

“I’ve seen district attorneys who hide evidence, but only evidence that is beneficial and exculpatory to the accused,” she says. “I’ve seen discovery violations, where they may not hide evidence but not provide it until during trial or when it’s too late to properly evaluate or attack it.” 

Moors is currently prosecuting Jonathan Martinez Garcia, the 16-year-old student accused of attacking and raping a teacher at Eldorado High School.

She defends her decision to present Garcia’s case to a grand jury, where the proceedings are secret, citing the privacy protections the panels afford victims of alleged sexual assault, as opposed to a preliminary hearing in open court.

Ganz, who recently earned an advanced degree in dispute and conflict resolution, says if elected he’ll be an advocate for a fair system.  He says he’s not suggesting the system is currently unfair, but that “people lose trust in the system.” 

Ganz rejects the notion that justice is out of reach for civil litigants who can’t afford an attorney, naming resources available to pro se litigants. 

“There’s another key to the courthouse, which is lawyers who do stuff on contingency, which is something that I’ve done a lot of my career,” he adds.  

The remote factor 

Ganz says he’s a fan of remote hearings or any technological advancements that will facilitate and expedite court appearances. His opponents agree. 

“As an orator where my job is to publicly speak, I’d rather be doing it in person” Moors says, but adds “on any given day, I might have 10 to 15 cases in court and we can’t be 10 to 15 different places at one point. So unfortunately, courts are left waiting for prosecutors or defense attorneys.” 

Moors says remote hearings may offer more benefit in the civil arena, where “we’re not dealing with taking away someone’s freedom.”  

Schwartz says remote hearings are well suited for parties who lack transportation and “are at the mercy of a system where a bus is late and they can get a bench warrant.” 

She says remote hearings should not be used for critical appearances such as sentencing, or when attorneys need to confer with their clients, or address an issue with the judge.  

Early voting takes place October 22 through Nov. 4.  Election day is November 8.  

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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.