DAYTON - Voters in the Dayton Township are deciding if they want an attorney or non-attorney as the new justice of the peace.
Attorney William Rogers is facing off against non-attorneys John Bennetts, Stanleigh Harold Lusak and Linda Rhoades in the primary election, now under way for early balloting until election day on Sept. 5.
The candidates seek to fill the vacancy of Justice of the Peace Edward Johnson, who is stepping down.
Rogers, 52, was district attorney in Lyon County from 1982 to 1990 and, since then from his Carson City office, has handled civil cases and served as a defense attorney in criminal cases.
Bennetts, 61, has worked 40 years as a metallurgical engineer in the mining industry, but chronic declines in small mines has given him time to seek a seat on the bench.
Rhoades, 39, drives a school bus in Dayton for the Lyon County School District.
Lusak, who ran for lieutenant governor in the 1998 primary, has no listed phone number and he did not submit a phone number to the registrar's office. He did not send back a questionnaire mailed by the Nevada Appeal.
"I think it boils down to do you want an attorney or not," Bennetts said.
Bennetts has never run for public office. He has lived in Silver City all his life and he graduated from Dayton High School.
He said he's had an interest in local government and the law for many years.
"I've handled large crews (up to 108 people) in remote areas where I've had to mediate, where I've had to be judge and juries on these projects," Bennetts said.
Bennetts is running for justice of the peace to make sure a non-attorney is on the ballot. Conversely, Rogers is willing to put aside his private practice to make sure an attorney is on the ballot.
Tradition in Nevada (outside Clark County) almost prefers non-attorneys as justices of the peace. In the 16 counties other than Clark County, 51 justices are non-attorneys and only eight are attorneys.
"The concern I have is that somebody well qualified runs for justice of the peace," Rogers said. "I was very concerned that we continue to have a qualified representative on board."
Rogers arrived in Nevada from Chicago in 1980. After a year in Douglas County, he moved to Lyon County and became district attorney in 1982. He has lived in Dayton since 1986.
"I think the most pressing issue for any judge is to make sure you have somebody that can be fair and impartial," Rogers said. "I feel I can do that well because I've been on both sides (prosecution and defense)."
Rhoades moved to Dayton four years ago after raising three children for 20 years in Las Vegas. She learned a lot about the law while closely helping a friend study for three years to become a lawyer.
"In doing that, I got really interested in the law but I didn't want to become an attorney," Rhoades said. "A good judge makes decisions on right and wrong. They search for right. I'd rather do that than be somebody who gets someone off."
She thought about running for justice of the peace in Goodsprings about a dozen years ago, even before helping her friend with legal studies. Instead, she has served as a judge of sorts on her school bus.
"I am pretty strict," Rhoades said. "You can ask any kids on my bus."