Injured Reno judge popular target for angry parents
Associated Press Writer
A lot of people don’t like Chuck Weller, and to some it was no surprise when he was shot Monday in the chest as he stood near a third-floor courthouse window.
As a family court judge in Reno, Nev., Weller decides how to split up families and who should pay the most child support. And when he rules against a parent in the volatile world of family court justice, he sometimes is regarded as the enemy.
Local businessman Darren Mack, who had recent court dealings with the judge after a divorce, was identified by police as a “person of interest” in the case. Weller, 53, remained hospitalized in serious condition.
A bully. Hitler. Abusive.
Weller was vilified on several Web sites critical of family court judges. Fathers, in particular, were harsh, with one calling him the worst judge in America.
Garret Idle went before Weller in May 2005 seeking to increase his visitation time with his two children. Instead, he said, Weller slammed him for more child support and didn’t listen to any of his concerns about his son and daughter.
“Weller is very abusive. He’s a monster,” Idle, 48, said. “He’s destroyed everything I’ve worked for.”
Weller, a married father of two daughters, graduated from Georgetown Law in 1978 and moved to Reno in 1982. Two years later, he entered private practice and mostly handled divorce and custody cases.
He hosted a legal advice program for a few years on the radio and wrote a legal column for the Reno Gazette-Journal.
To Dan Mason, program director at KOH AM 780, Weller was easygoing and hardly controversial.
“Chuck is a fantastic guy. He was a very friendly guy, very easy to get along with, very warm on the radio,” Mason said.
Weller ran for and was elected as one of three family court judges in Reno in 2004, saying he was a good communicator who could help move families through the legal system.
“You can do good work in the court,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal in October 2004. “There are a percentage of cases that are hopeless, but it’s a small percentage.”
Fellow attorney Ken McKenna, who has known Weller for more than 20 years, described Weller as an efficient, no-nonsense judge, qualities that some mistake for being abrupt or harsh.
“Family law is the most volatile, emotional area of law,” he said. “People’s lives are being affected to the core of their beings. Mothers are being taken away from the children. Children are being taken away from their fathers. People tend to lose their reasonableness and they act irrational. It is a very scary situation.”
Bonnie Russell, founder of http://www.FamilyLawCourts.com, said family courts operate much like Halliburton, unregulated and out of control. Sometimes the consequence can turn deadly.
One emotional posting on the site http://www.courthouseforum.com said this about Weller: “I am not sure monster describes him accurately. Judge Chuck Weller in my belief suffers from ‘God complex’ and possibly other things as well.”
Numerous Internet postings described how Weller makes decisions before he hears cases, is unsympathetic and rules like a tyrant.
The state Commission on Judicial Discipline accepts complaints on judges, but does not publicly acknowledge them unless it acts upon them. The commission has not acted against Weller.
But Idle has had enough of Weller and said he isn’t sympathetic.
“I think karma finally came back to bite him,” Idle said. “Hopefully Weller will have a change of heart in the way he deals with human beings.”
EDITOR’S NOTE – Angie Wagner is the AP’s Western regional writer, based in Las Vegas.