Carson City Justice of the Peace candidate questions
October 18, 2018
Record of service: I have worked as an attorney for over 20 years, 18 of which have been in Carson City in the public sector. Before coming to Carson City, I worked in private practice in Reno handling criminal defense and civil litigation. I was hired in January 2000 as a Criminal Deputy at the Carson City District Attorney's office. In that position I prosecuted all types of cases, from traffic violations to serious felony charges. I also worked as a Civil Deputy, representing boards and commissions. After ten years, I was appointed to the Juvenile Court where I heard and decided juvenile delinquency and child welfare cases. I also presided over two treatment courts to help juveniles and families address substance abuse and mental health issues. At the Juvenile Court, I maintained the budget and staffing for the court and its programs and learned what it takes to run an efficient court room. In 2015, I was recruited back to the Carson City District Attorney's Office to serve as the Assistant District Attorney. In this position, I have supervised the criminal and juvenile divisions of the office and prosecuted a number of high-profile cases, including murder and child pornography cases.
Education: UNR: Bachelor of Arts 1991. Gonzaga University School of Law: Juris Doctor 1994.
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A brief statement about your platform: Experience makes a difference in this position. Judge Tatro is retiring from this position after 24 years of service and that is a lot of experience leaving the bench. It is important that the person you elect can step into that role immediately and understand the intricacies of cases. Your Justice of the Peace needs to know community resources and legal issues because they decide misdemeanor criminal cases, who can be released on bail, and who are appropriate candidates for Misdemeanor Treatment Court and Mental Health Court. These decisions require not only an understanding of the law, but an understanding of criminal behavior and its causes. These decisions effect you even if you never appear in Justice Court because they impact your safety in Carson City. Understanding what resources we have to address substance abuse and mental health issues is also important because, for many people, this treatment is the only mechanism to stop their criminal behavior. I have seen these cases from both sides and I have applied the same laws used in Justice Court when deciding Juvenile Court cases. I know with my experience, I can do more than make sound legal decisions, I can make a difference.
Describe a time you learned something invaluable that will help you if elected?
I have learned through my years of experience that being in a courtroom is often a traumatic event. As a defendant, having someone you do not know decide your fate is terrifying. As a victim, particularly in cases of domestic battery, sexual assault, and murder, coming to court to testify creates another layer of trauma. Witnesses can be reluctant to testify out of fear of being blamed or retaliated against. Even seasoned law enforcement officers experience stress when testifying in court by having their work challenged through questions posed by experienced attorneys. It is critically important for the Justice of the Peace to understand and consider the impact of courtroom trauma in their day-to-day hearings.
The role of the Justice of the Peace is to hear and decide cases involving real people and their decisions are important to the people who come before the court. The Justice of the Peace is also responsible to set the tone for court proceedings and to demonstrate an understanding of the stress which surrounds these proceedings. The Justice of the Peace can take steps to relieve stress by making certain accommodations. For example, allowing a witness to take a necessary break when testifying, allowing a child witness to have a trusted adult with them while testifying, and allowing a defendant time to consult with their attorney before testifying can often relieve stress and reduce trauma.
At the end of the day, real people come to court and real people are impacted by the decisions made there. People may be stressed, tired or anxious when in court and these factors impact their testimony. Understanding that these decisions effect real people and that coming to court can be a stressful event is important to reaching the right decision in every case.
Record of service: I am currently an attorney and partner with the Allison MacKenzie law firm. Before joining the firm in 2004 I served as Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable William Maddox. I have spent the past eight years sitting as a Judge Pro Tem on the bench for which I am running. I have conducted many criminal and civil trials, presided over small claims, decided many protective order requests, and conducted hearings for all phases of such cases. In doing so, I have been able to train under the currently elected Judges. I am Carson City's representative on the Nevada Bar's Board of Governors, the entity which regulates the practice of law in Nevada. I am most proud of the twelve years I have spent on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada, including one year as president, when we successfully relocated to our new facilities, and entered a joint use agreement with the City for all facilities on that campus. I have been a Carson City Rotarian for two years, and over the last six years, I have coached eight little league teams, three youth soccer teams, and three youth basketball teams.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resource Management from the University of Nevada, Reno; Juris Doctorate from the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
A brief statement about your platform: Justice is blind for a reason. Every person deserves impartial justice, with no regard to race, age, ability, religion, sex, or economic status. If elected I will ensure that everyone in my courtroom is treated with respect, compassion and fairness, as well as the dignity and decorum the Court itself should personify. My education in human resources, as well as my experience representing public employers, as a trial attorney and Judge Pro Tem, makes me uniquely qualified for this position. I believe in a team approach to this job, and recognize the importance of all aspects of the Court, including the clerks, bailiffs, judicial assistants, attorneys, all parties, and the judges. I will operate with the understanding that this is the people's court, grounded firmly in the rule of law. I will run this Court as I have been trained to operate as a private attorney and business owner: efficiently, compassionately, effectively, and when needed, sternly. I will continue and further the good work of the mental health court and the misdemeanor addiction court, both of which reduce repeat offenses and improve our community.
Describe a time you learned something invaluable that will help you if elected?
As a young man, my Dad sat me down and explained to me that life is short, and in life every person has a right to be happy. It was a decidedly human lesson that has continued to teach me, especially in my role as an attorney and a Judge Pro Tem, that for every person before the Court, there has been life that led to the moment, and there will be life thereafter. I learned that the hopeful duty of a Judge, especially in the criminal context, is to use each offense before the Court as an opportunity to prevent re-offense; to take each offender as an individual, and in imposing a punishment, to do so with a goal of rehabilitation and education which will return offenders to society as productive members as opposed to as threats of re-offense. That goal is based in each person's fundamental right to the pursuit of happiness and an understanding that an offense, and especially re-offense, interferes with another's pursuit of happiness. I have learned that every person in the courtroom is tied together not only by their presence in court, not only by their participation in the justice system, not only by common residence in our town, but by our humanity. That is why I believe at the end of any matter, and at the end of the day, a Judge must preside humbly and faithfully, with compassion and humanity.