Judges in Nevada cannot be forced to answer questions under oath about potential discipline matters before being formally charged with a violation.
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Judicial Discipline Commission lacks authority to force Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson to answer written questions under oath before the Commission has filed formal charges.
The Supreme Court, which has original jurisdiction over the Discipline Commission, heard argument on the writ in April.
“To be clear, a judge owes an ethical duty to ‘cooperate and be candid and honest’ with the Commission. …. But nothing in our statutes or the Commission’s procedural rules authorize the Commission to demand that a judge answer questions under oath at this pre-adjudicative stage of the disciplinary process,” the Supreme Court justices wrote.
The complaint filed by the commission against Tobiasson alleges she violated judicial ethics rules by speaking publicly about her contention that some law enforcement officers are protecting pimps and prostitutes, who are in turn targeting the daughters of police and judges for the sex trade.
Tobiasson called foul last year, criticizing a process that renders the commission complainant, prosecutor, judge and jury. Her attorney, William Terry, alleged the judicial discipline process violates the due process rights of Nevada judges.
In a “friend of the court” brief, an association of Justices of the Peace, the Nevada Judges of Limited Jurisdiction (NJLJ), wrote:
“In essence, the Commission is demanding that a judge provide the evidence that the Commission may use to support a final finding of reasonable probability and the filing of a formal statement of charges and then using that evidence against the judge in a formal hearing.”
Judicial Discipline Commission Executive Director Paul Deyhle did not respond to the Current’s request for comment.
Tobiasson declined to comment on her next steps.