The Nevada Supreme Court is agreeing to step into a dispute between Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson and the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission that could ultimately change the way judges are investigated for alleged transgressions.
Tobiasson is challenging the Commission’s discipline procedure, which requires judges answer questions before formal charges are filed. Tobiasson alleges the rules lack due process. A bill before the 2019 Nevada Legislature makes the same argument.
In an order dated December 20, Justices Mark Gibbons, James Hardesty and Kris Pickering granted Tobiasson’s request to stay the deadline for answering the Commission’s questions until her petition before the Supreme Court is resolved.
“Having reviewed the petition, it appears that an answer and amicus briefing may assist this court in resolving this matter,” the panel wrote, inviting the Nevada District Judges’ Association and the Nevada Judges of Limited Jurisdiction to submit “friend of the court” briefs.
“The fact that the Supreme Court has invited amicus briefs from our association and the District Judges association seems to indicate that they are interested in the issue and that it may have merit,” Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman, a member of the NJLJ board, told the Current. Zimmerman says the association’s board is expected to vote in the next few days on retaining an attorney to write the brief.
“I am pleased the Supreme Court has responded to our writ,” Tobiasson said.
Las Vegas attorney William Terry, who represents Tobiasson, had asked the Commission to extend the deadline for Tobiasson to respond to the questions, given her petition to the state’s high court to hear her challenge of the Commission’s rules.
The Commission’s executive director, Paul Deyhle, declined. Deyhle’s refusal is attached as an exhibit in Tobiasson’s motion to the Supreme Court to compel the Commission to wait:
“…please note that no further requests for additional time will be granted. The complaint in this case is required to move forward in accordance with the Commission’s constitutional and statutory mandates. The receipt of a response to the complaint will assist the Commission in determining whether the filing of a formal statement of charges is necessary. Thus, this requirement affords Judge Tobiasson more due process, not less.”
Deyhle did not respond to inquiries from the Current.
The Commission’s own investigator found Tobiasson did not use her position as a Justice of the Peace in 2015 when she informed police of an alleged teen prostitution ring operating out of Top Knotch, a former apparel store on Spring Mountain Road in Las Vegas. The investigator also found no violation when Tobiasson’s failed to immediately recuse herself in a case involving a defendant who may have posed a threat to Tobiasson’s daughter.