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Series on Las Vegas Judges Renews Calls for Reform

June 14, 2006|From a Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — A series of newspaper articles on alleged corruption in the judicial system here has revived demands for reform in the way judges are chosen.

The articles in the Los Angeles Times last week documented an extensive pattern of financial and personal links among Las Vegas judges, lawyers and other players in the legal system that suggested improper influence on judicial decisions.

Judges in Nevada, as in various other states, are elected rather than appointed.

Many of the questionable practices cited in The Times articles stemmed from judges raising campaign funds from lawyers with cases pending in their courtrooms.

Vincent A. Consul, president of the State Bar of Nevada, said this week that the articles had given fresh momentum to efforts to move toward a system of appointing judges so they were not forced to raise campaign funds.

Consul said the state bar this year proposed a modified reform plan that called for judges to be initially appointed; they would then face voters two years later. Other reform efforts failed in 1972 and 1988.

The most vocal advocate for change is Jon Ralston, a leading Nevada political commentator. He wrote in the Las Vegas Sun last week that The Times had exposed "the incestuous nature of a judiciary fueled by friendships and campaign money."

"The idea that judges can be unduly influenced by who they know and the money they receive is something cynics have long assumed," Ralston wrote. "But what the L.A. Times has done is devote resources to detailing and documenting a causal connection between influence attempted and decisions rendered."

Ralston on Tuesday added, "I've heard no one quarrel with the facts of the story."

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