Hearing opens for Vegas-area judge in dating claim
December 4, 2013
LAS VEGAS — A lawyer characterized a Clark County Family Court judge as fighting for his professional life before a state panel considering whether the judge mishandled a romantic relationship with a female prosecutor.
Attorney James Jimmerson denied Monday before the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline that Steven Jones dated former prosecutor Lisa Willardson in October 2011 while Willardson was handling cases before Jones, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Jones could lose his judgeship if the commission determines he violated the state Judicial Code of Conduct rules by failing to disqualify himself from hearing Willardson's cases.
Jones has been suspended since his indictment in November 2012 in a separate federal case involving what authorities allege was the misuse of the power of his office as part of a $3 million investment fraud scheme. He is scheduled to stand trial in March. He continues to draw his $200,000 per year salary.
Commission special counsel William Cooper said during hearing openings in Las Vegas that investigators obtained emails and text messages showing the Jones-Willardson relationship predated an Oct. 28 cellphone photo showing what appeared to be Jones' hand near Willardson's knee under a table during a party.
In one message to a Jones assistant on Oct. 17, Willardson described Jones as "freaking hot."
In another to a lawyer on Oct. 20, Willardson said she was dating Jones and acknowledged that people at the courthouse were becoming aware of it.
Former Clark County District Attorney David Roger later fired Willardson and sparked a disciplinary panel investigation that led to a 12-count complaint against Jones in December 2012.
Willardson received a letter of caution from the State Bar of Nevada.
Jones fought for months to derail the disciplinary hearing, but the Nevada Supreme Court recently gave the go-ahead for proceedings to begin.
Jones and Willardson are expected to testify later this week.