Friday, April 14, 2017

Nevada: State Supreme Court rules that Judges aren't subjected to recall law

In its long delayed ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that judges are not subject to the state's recall law. Both the ruling and the dissent hold that judges are "public officers" as provided for in the recall law, but the majority ruled that the recall law was superseded by the 1976 creation of the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline. According to the majority, the fact that the act creating the Commission didn't specifically mention recalls removed the recall as an option for future judges.

My recommendation is to read the dissent as I think the majority decision is a poorly reasoned one. The majority ruling is a very tortured way to protect judges from the recall -- one that other states very clearly don't follow. Allowing for impeachment or removal by a commission is very common -- it is odd and extremely unlikely that voters were voting to remove the recall at the same time that they were putting forth another method of removing judges.Nevada happens to have a very challenging recall law, thanks to another unusual Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that severely constricted the voters' ability to use recalls (a decision later signed into law with a later bill. Both may actually violate federal law as stated in Bush v. Gore).

The dissent also discussed the technicalities over the signatures against Ramsey, which was the original basis of her suit against the recall, but that is not handled by the majority.

Unstated in any coverage is that the Supreme Court issued this ruling after an incredibly long delay, one that allowed any voter anger to completely dissipate by the time the ruling was handed down. The recall was brought against North Las Vegas Municipal Judge Catherine Ramsey back in 2015. The Supreme Court took the case in July 2015, and heard oral arguments in October 2015. In that time, Ramsey admitted to misconduct, was barred from seeking reelection (she tried to run another seat), suspended, had to write apologies, take a fitness test and the city eliminated the judgeship. Does the Nevada Supreme Court normally take a year and a half to rule on election law cases or was this more of a gutless dodge?

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