Statement for Nevada Appeal as candidate for District Court Judge
Name: Noel Waters
Address: 1772 Ridgeway Ct., Carson City, NV 89706
Phone number: 775-230-3973
Campaign Web site: waters4judge.com
Education: Carson High School, 1966; University of Nevada, Reno, 1978 (BA in journalism); University of the Pacific, McGeorge Law School, 1981.
Profession: Lawyer, at Lionel Sawyer & Collins, Carson City offices.
Political experience: Served five elective terms as Carson City District Attorney, from 1985 through 2006.
After graduation from Carson High in 1966, I attended college briefly before USAF service which included a year in Korea in 1968. I was graduated from UNR in 1978 with a journalism degree. After law school, I was a law clerk for Judge Michael Griffin before being hired as a deputy district attorney in Carson City. Since 1985, and for the next 21 years , I served as Carson City’s elected district attorney. In 2007, I went to work as a civil litigator for the law firm of Lionel Sawyer & Collins.
During college and law school, I worked as a grocery clerk, construction laborer and warehouseman, a bill editor for two sessions of the Nevada Legislature, a Highway Patrol dispatcher, and as a BLM firefighter in Nevada and Alaska. Work and family demands often required that I attend school part-time. As a result, I don’t feel that I am any “different” from any other working person and parent. I believe every person is entitled to be treated with respect and to have equal rights under the law, regardless of status, wealth or privilege. I’m very proud of my four grown children, all of whom are successful graduates of Carson City schools.
Why do you believe voters should select you rather than your opponent as district court judge?
As Carson’s DA, I gained wide experience in criminal law and juvenile matters, land use and property law issues, police/fire liability, personal tort liability and negligence, planning and zoning, administrative and regulatory law, grand jury practice, contracts and bids, and child support laws. In private practice, I have served as a pro tem judge and as a juvenile master for the district court. As a trial lawyer, I have participated in over 50 jury trials, lasting from one day to 4-? months. I have taught police academy and college classes in evidence, criminal law, and constitutional law for many years.
What changes would you make if you were elected?
The district court serving Carson City and Storey County is really a group of many individuals, including another independently elected district judge, court clerks, secretarial support, and security personnel. I think it would be both necessary and wise to involve all those persons in the process – as well as members of the local bar — before suggesting major changes. However, I am interested in helping to bring electronic case filing to the court, in working to speed up court processes and rulings for lawyers and litigants, and in improving access to justice by citizens through encouraging pro bono and self-help programs.
Should judges be given more discretion than allowed by current law in imposing sentences? Why?
The present system works pretty well, in my opinion. Except for a few crimes, judges currently have a great deal of discretion in sentencing. Generally the judge is free to impose probation, or not, and to set the terms for incarceration, probation, fine, or restitution. A few crimes, such as DUI’s, domestic violence, and weapons or enhancement offenses, require mandatory minimum sentences, and others, particularly sex or violent crimes, do not allow probation. One of the greatest responsibilities of a judge is to apply the general law (the statutory sentence) to the individual defendant’s case, and discretion is needed.
What criteria would you use for deciding whether to impose or affirm sentences outside of standard ranges?
I think it is a good idea for a judge to make a record or “finding of facts” if a sentence departs from standard ranges. Useful criteria include:
1. Age (youth and immaturity);
2. Criminal history: the best indication of a person’s future behavior and “likelihood to re-offend” is the offender’s past behavior;
3. Degree of involvement in the crime;
4. Violence, especially gratuitous violence, used in the crime;
5. Victim provocation or mutual combat;
6. Mental functioning or psychological state of offender. I do not view voluntary intoxication as a mitigator usually;
7. Likelihood offender can succeed on probation.
Would the reality of prison overcrowding play a role in how you sentence criminals?
We simply cannot afford to build more prisons and hire more prison staff as a long-term answer to crime and punishment. Prisons should be focused on the dangerous, the violent, and the incorrigible. Because crime often is grounded in substance abuse and addiction, we can help reduce recidivism by treatment and offender monitoring on probation and parole. I am proud to have authored the Nevada legislation allowing counties to establish misdemeanor-level probation and pre-trial supervision departments. This resulted in Carson City having the State’s first Alternative Sentencing Department, which has reduced repeat felony rates and keeps offenders under closer supervision.
What has been your greatest accomplishment in your legal career? In your personal life?
I have been involved in over 50 jury trials in my career, and I am proud of many. However, I have a greater satisfaction in having been a mentor and teacher for many young attorneys over the years as Carson’s district attorney. Many have told me I have made a difference in their careers. The greatest accomplishment in my personal life is easier: my four children who are now grown: Kristin, Ian, Scott and Sarah. Again, I don’t claim responsibility for their successes, and give credit and thanks to their moms. But I am happy and honored to have contributed.
What is your general judicial philosophy? What things would you emphasize if elected to the bench?
Over the past 18 months, I have had the opportunity to serve often as a pro tem justice of the peace and municipal judge in Carson City. It is important to treat the participants with respect, keep the proceedings moving efficiently, rely upon the attorneys to focus upon the key issues in the case, and render a decision that follows the material facts and the law. Common sense is a very useful tool. I believe strongly in individual accountability. I would not hesitate to incarcerate defendants when necessary to preserve community safety, for appropriate punishment, and as deterrence to others.
What else would you like to say to voters about your qualifications and ideas?
In tough economic times, governments, including the courts, need to operate efficiently. Computerized record-keeping is happening in our courts, and electronic filing – and online access to court records- will be coming soon. I have long worked on justice programs to increase efficiencies, safeguard personal privacy rights, and reduce costs through computerized sharing of records. Since 2001, I’ve been involved in a multi-county project for information sharing between law enforcement and courts, a project sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Nevada Supreme Court. I believe my knowledge and experience in this area would be very useful to the 1st Judicial District Court.
Thanks to the Nevada Appeal for this opportunity to speak to the voters.