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THE NATION

Three Las Vegas Judges Face High Court Review

In response to a Times investigation, Nevada's justices want the senior jurists to answer conflict-of-interest and favoritism allegations.

June 23, 2006|Don Woutat | Times Staff Writer

Among numerous assertions about the judges were that Brennan presided over at least 16 cases involving participants in his real estate ventures; that Pavlikowski accepted $2,800 in "comps," or giveaways, from a casino whose boss later had cases before him, and that he showed repeated favoritism in rulings for the drunk-driving clients of a former law clerk; and that Huffaker presided over several cases involving casinos while they were providing his son with jobs and an $11,000 scholarship.

Mahan was a state district judge in Las Vegas until he joined the federal bench four years ago. In those two capacities, he was reported to have approved more than $4.8 million in judgments and fees without disclosing long-standing ties to those who benefited from the actions. Mahan has denied any conflict of interest.

The Times articles traced many of the questionable practices to the fact that Nevada judges facing election felt compelled to raise campaign funds. Most of the money comes from lawyers or companies that appear before the same judges in court cases.

Bill Raggio, Republican majority leader in the state Senate, has said he plans to introduce legislation to require that judges be appointed instead of elected, thus eliminating the campaign issue. The Supreme Court and the state bar have endorsed such action before, and Rose said Thursday he would push hard for it again. But that would require a change in the state constitution, and voters have rejected it twice.

The state's legal establishment is preparing legislation to free judges from raising campaign funds unless someone is running against them. Most judges run unopposed, yet they raise tens of thousands of dollars to run campaigns. Much of the money goes unspent and is not always accounted for, The Times reported.

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