Esmeralda sheriff seeking removal of DA
November 17, 2004
The Esmeralda County sheriff will get his chance to argue the district attorney should be removed from office – but not until a new judge is named.
Sheriff Ken Elgan filed papers with the District Court in August seeking removal of District Attorney William Schaeffer, who lives in Battle Mountain. He charged that Schaeffer “has refused or neglected to perform the official duties pertaining to his office as prescribed by law.”
The complaint listed more than a dozen specific cases in which the sheriff and his deputies conducted investigations, made arrests and filed charges. In most of the cases listed, Sheriff Elgan charged that Schaeffer failed to prosecute – often simply not showing up for the hearings which forced the court to dismiss charges. The cases included domestic violence and driving under the influence cases – including a felony DUI charge – as well as possession of controlled substances, possession of stolen property and possession of fraudulent ID documents. One case charged child abuse.
The sheriff also accused Schaeffer of failing to attend “a substantial portion” of Esmeralda County’s commission meetings and failing to provide not only the commission but his deputies and other county officials with the legal advice his office is charged with providing.
It took only a few days for Judge John Davis to order Schaeffer relieved of his duties and to appoint Lewis Taitel of Reno as acting district attorney to prosecute the complaint against Schaeffer.
Schaeffer responded by demanding that Taitel’s appointment be rescinded and Judge Davis removed from the case.
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He said that he, as district attorney, has “no duty to the sheriff” when the sheriff files charges.
“If petitioner has no duty to act, how can the respondent judge declare him disqualified and appoint someone to act in his place?” he argued.
And he argued he has the right to a preemptory challenge removing the judge from his case.
The high court agreed that he could challenge Davis and ordered him off the case. But the court said the district court was within its rights to name a prosecutor to handle the demand that Schaeffer be removed from office.
A new judge will now have to be appointed to hear the case and determine whether Schaeffer should be removed as Esmeralda County district attorney.
Calls to Schaeffer’s Battle Mountain phone number were answered by a recording that said it has been disconnected. Taitel is on vacation with his family and could not be reached.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.
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