Wilson gives Berkley a run for his money in Justice Court race

By: - October 6, 2022 5:57 am

Amy Wilson, Max Berkley

Max Berkley, candidate for Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Dept. 7, spent $180,000 in the June primary election to win 62,295 votes.

“I spent $35,000 and we nearly tied,” says Amy Wilson, who came in about 3,300 votes shy of Berkley and will face him in the general election. “It was very close. I was encouraged by those results.” 

“Obviously, I would have liked to have performed as well as possible,” Berkley, a longtime public defender, said in an interview. “It was a relatively close race, but I’m still hopeful, still confident, and out here working hard and hoping for a similar result next month.”

A third candidate eliminated in the primary, prosecutor Dina Rinetti, won more than 30,000 votes that will be up for grabs in November. She also won law enforcement endorsements, which have now been bestowed on Wilson, who primarily practices personal injury law.

“I told you I’m never going to outraise or outspend the Berkley machine,” Wilson said, referring to the political connections of Berkley’s mother, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley. “But I have the law enforcement endorsements and I’m the only woman on the ticket now.”

Berkley says he’s aware of the “gender factor” – that all things being equal, women have an edge over men in judicial races.  

“I know the success women have had, but I think I’m doing myself a disservice if I get too fixated on that,” Berkley said. “I’m going to run the best campaign that I can and hope for the best results. My opponent has worked hard. If she prevails, it’s going to be because she ran a great campaign, not because she’s a woman.”

Wilson says she’s confident Berkley is “a nice guy. We are very cordial. But I have significantly more experience.”

Berkley, who raised $191,000 through June, says he’s “trying to raise enough money to put out a few commercials” before the election, a better investment, he says than polls. 

“I did one poll before the primary and the numbers didn’t end up being real accurate,” he says. “So I decided that we were not going to spend the money to do another poll.” 

Wilson obtained her law degree from Brigham Young University. She was admitted to the California bar in 1998, and has also practiced in Arizona as well as Nevada.  

She served as a prosecutor in Orange County and San Mateo County, and later switched to criminal defense as a member of the San Mateo private defender panel, the equivalent of the public defender.  

She later became a prosecutor in Arizona’s Maricopa County District Attorney’s office, where she handled probation violations, and served as a pro tem judge in Justice Court.    

Wilson has been licensed to practice law in Nevada since 2014, working her first year for a firm that “did solely evictions for large property management companies.”

“I have a varied background,” she says, including representing criminal defendants in Justice Court. “I’ve done a couple of DUIS, traffic tickets, but we’re mostly a PI firm.” 

She also served as a pro tem judge regularly in Justice Court from 2020 until she filed to run for the seat in Department 7. 

Berkley is a native Las Vegan and a graduate of UNLV’s Boyd Law School. He has been a Clark County public defender for ten years, but says he’d be able “switch to being a trier of fact” if elected to Justice Court.  

“I understand I wouldn’t be able to advocate anymore,” he said during an interview. “But I think I can be unbiased and neutral. And that’s one of the reasons I decided to run for this job.”

Berkley’s campaign website features an endorsement from his mother, who says her son is a “listener” and has “quintessential judicial temperament.”  

Berkley says he’d like to see options increased in Justice Court for defendants who may benefit from drug court but are often denied treatment until their case is adjudicated in District Court.

“There is such a Justice Court drug court, but it is not utilized as frequently as I think it could be,” he says, adding that District Court has “a bunch of different inpatient treatment facilities, and outpatient treatment.” 

“I’d like to see mental health services utilized as well, and I don’t think we need to wait until someone pleads to the serious charge before we utilize mental health as well as drug court.” 

Early voting runs from Oct. 22 through Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 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.