Judge says he didn’t violate conduct rules
September 28, 2005
FALLON – Justice of the Peace Dan Ward has denied all 15 counts alleged against him by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, including using his influence to get his son out of jail.
The next step in the process will be a public hearing. Dave Sarnowski, counsel for the judicial discipline commission, said attorneys from each side will decide who will be called as witnesses at the hearing and what documents will be presented before the seven-member commission.
No date has been set for the proceeding, which will be open to the public. If the commission determines a judge has violated ethical canons, it can impose sanctions that range from a reprimand or fines to removal from the bench.
Many of the allegations involve defendants who were alleged drug users and their connections to Ward’s son, who was arrested on drug charges in January 2004.
He admitted he contacted other judges and a defense attorney about his son’s case and arranged for Sean Ward to be released from jail on his own recognizance, but contended he acted as a father and not a judge. The judge stated he was also acting in his role of a father during conversations with a task force investigator about a domestic dispute between his son and Michelle Harrison.
He claims he doesn’t recall whether he talked to the officer about his son’s drug use, but if he did it would have been as a concerned father, he said, and it was the responsibility of the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office to notify the prosecuting attorney about the conversation.
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The judge denied he used his court staff to help get his son out of jail, but admitted he did not tell the prosecutor about his conversations concerning his son. The judicial commission alleged Ward instructed court clerks to contact local judges to get his son released from custody, and to prepare the necessary paperwork.
Ward also claimed he did not know his son was using drugs in 2003 when he received information about drug-related activities from defendants who later appeared in his court. He also denied he knew about a relationship between his son and Harrison in July 2003 when he did not disqualify himself from her child-abuse case.
The judge also denied “fixing” two tickets, one received by a Churchill County sheriff’s deputy’s wife, and another by a clerk in his court.
He stated he showed a ticket that had been paid by the woman to Deputy District Attorney Russell Smith, asking what he should do with it. The fine was refunded to the deputy’s wife because Smith asked that the citation be dismissed, the documents state.
n Contact reporter Marlene Garcia at email@example.com.