Adam Laxalt speaking the night of his primary victory in 2018 (Laxalt campaign video screenshot).
Nevada Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor Adam Laxalt says he hopes a Clark County judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed against him and Governor Brian Sandoval will put an end to criticism that Laxalt is bucking the will of the people and forwarding his own pro-gun agenda by refusing to enforce Question 1. The suit was filed against Laxalt and Sandoval by three Las Vegas residents shortly after the shooting massacre on the Las Vegas Strip.
Laxalt announced in December 2016 that the law was unenforceable without the assistance of the FBI, which declined to conduct the background checks because, the agency says, states can’t direct the use of federal resources.
But Laxalt’s hope that Monday’s ruling from Judge Joe Hardy will quash criticism appears to be dashed, given the reaction of Nevada Democrats.
“Adam Laxalt has consistently dragged his feet on this voter-approved law, rather than crossing the gun lobby that supports him,” said a campaign spokesman for Laxalt’s Republican opponent, Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission. “Nevadans deserve better and, as governor, Steve will move swiftly to see that commonsense background checks are implemented.”
The Democrat running to replace Laxalt as AG, State Senator Aaron Ford, says he is disappointed by the court’s decision.
“But more importantly, I am disappointed that the Attorney General came up lacking in his power of persuasion with the federal government and his ability to enforce a law representing the will of Nevada voters,” Ford said in a statement. “Background checks save lives, period. Nevada voters, including victims advocates and many in the law enforcement community, decided that we are tired of letting criminals and domestic abusers roam our streets with easy access to guns and giving a bad name to responsible gun owners.”
State Senator and Clark County Commission candidate Tick Segerblom says the ruling was a fait accompli.
“Republican judge appointed by Republican governor who is being sued?” Segerblom said in an email. “We knew how that would turn out before it was briefed.“
Judge Joe Hardy, appointed to the bench by Sandoval in 2015, did not respond to the Current’s inquiry as to whether he considered recusing from the case, given Sandoval’s involvement as a defendant. Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price says Hardy is prohibited from commenting.
“The record in the case reflects that neither party filed an affidavit or motion regarding recusal or disqualification pursuant to NRS 1.235, Procedure for Disqualifying Judges other than Supreme Court Justices or Judges of the Court of Appeals,” Price told the Current in a statement. However, Price adds, any judge is allowed to recuse himself from a case if he believes the potential conflict arises to a level prohibited by judicial rules.
The first judge appointed to the case, Jim Crockett, was removed by Sandoval and Laxalt via a preemptory challenge, according to court records. The case landed before Hardy when one of the plaintiffs filed a preemptory challenge against the second judge assigned, Judge Susan Johnson.
“Adam Laxalt is taking a victory lap while the will of Nevadans remains unfulfilled,” said Helen Kalla of the Nevada Democratic Party. “Laxalt has looked for any excuse to block background checks, and even worked with the gun lobby to try and influence Nevada voters by cutting ads for the NRA’s multi-million dollar campaign against the measure.”
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