Panel says Las Vegas judge committed misconduct
December 27, 2013
CARSON CITY, Nev. — A suspended Nevada family court judge under federal indictment on fraud allegations violated judicial conduct rules when he presided over cases handled by a prosecutor with whom he was romantically involved, a state panel has ruled.
In a ruling released Thursday, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline concluded there was "clear and convincing evidence" to prove eight of 12 misconduct charged filed against Clark County Family Court Judge Steven Jones.
The commission set a hearing for Jan. 27 to consider possible sanctions, which could involve removal from the bench.
Former Clark County District Attorney David Roger sought an investigation by the commission, which filed the misconduct charges against the judge in December 2012. Jones was accused of improperly presiding over cases handled by his girlfriend, former Deputy District Attorney Lisa Willardson.
Commission members said Jones was asked by attorneys in contested cases to recuse himself because of his romantic ties to Willardson, but he refused.
Roger removed Willardson from handling child abuse and neglect cases before Jones after the relationship became public in October 2011. He later fired her.
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In Thursday's ruling, the commission said Jones violated judicial canons that require a judge to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and to act in a manner "that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
It's the latest in a serious of legal woes for the veteran judge who was first elected in 1992.
Jones was suspended from the bench with pay in November 2012 after being indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud charges. He continues to receive his $200,000 annual salary.
The federal indictment alleges Jones used the power of his office to help carry out a $3 million investment fraud scheme over a decade beginning in 2002.
Five others also face charges in the case.
Prosecutors allege the defendants persuaded people to lend them money by telling them one defendant had a special position with the federal government and could get them high returns. According to the indictment, the money was spent on personal and gambling expenses.
Prosecutors claim Jones used his position to give the alleged scheme legitimacy and conducted business for it from the courthouse.
Jones has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in March.